Gavin Newsom for Governor?

Shaking up an already fast-moving political landscape, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed in an email to his list that he had taken the first step toward a run for governor in 2018.

Framing his announcement as a characteristically Californian statement “without evasiveness or equivocation,” he explained he was creating the initial committee necessary to mustering resources for a run. Gavin Newsom

A combination of reasons fueled Newsom’s early jump into a race that’s still out on the other side of the next presidential election. On the one hand, as the Los Angeles Times reported, Newsom’s committee will empower him to “raise up to $28,200 per supporter for both the primary and general elections, meaning he can collect $56,400 per donor.”

On his website, Newsom played up the practical importance of that head start. He said running “in America’s largest, most diverse state demands that I start raising resources now.”

On the other hand, Newsom, like other Democrats victorious in their last election cycle, has maintained a sizable war chest — in Newsom’s case, around $3 million. Nevertheless, Newsom likely will be expected to come up with much more than that.

“Running for governor is likely to cost $30 million to $50 million, or possibly much more,” the Washington Post observed. “Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief executive who ran against Brown in 2010, spent $144 million on a losing campaign.”

A quiet deal?

In the meanwhile, attention has focused on the timing between Newsom’s announcement and Attorney General Kamala Harris’s announcement that she will run to replace retiring Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate.

Just last month, Newsom told San Francisco radio station KGO that it was “laughably premature” to discuss his possible interest in taking over for Brown in 2018. He described his disinterest in Boxer’s seat as merely dispositional. “I’ve got a bias toward my children, my wife, my family. I’ve enjoyed my time as mayor, and I like the executive side of the world.”

The careful positioning led some to speculate that Harris and Newsom, close enough to share the same consultant, quietly bargained behind the scenes to run for different offices. Publicly, that was denied. A source close to Harris told the San Francisco Chronicle she and Newsom didn’t make a deal to split up their campaigns:

“She never talked to him,” the source said. “I think he read the tea leaves and made his decision.”

“However, Newsom — who has long let it be known that he wants to be governor — said he talked to Harris on Sunday night to let her know that he wasn’t going to be running for Senate.”

Decision time

Now that both Harris and Newsom have formalized their plans, the pressure has ratcheted up on other ambitious Democrats, whose next steps are the subject of feverish speculation. Top Democrats in Los Angeles have been affected most by the Harris/Newsom split.

As the Post reported, the two San Franciscans have long been “cognizant of the other’s ambitions and aware that running against each other could provide an opportunity for a rival from Los Angeles” — specifically, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who faces “renewed pressure” to choose which rival, if any, to challenge.

In Washington, D.C., making the rounds on the occasion of accepting an award, Villaraigosa stayed mum on the Senate race, preferring to regale reporters with a campaign-like discussion of the importance of education. That in itself could reflect a greater interest in a gubernatorial run, however.

Villaraigosa conspicuously supported the parents in the Vergara case, which challenged California’s teacher tenure system, claimed the existing system discriminates against minorities and the poor. And he endorsed Marshall Tuck, the reformer opposed by the teachers’ unions in November’s race for state superintendent of public instruction.

By contrast, Harris filed the Vergara appeal in the case, defending the status quo, an action supported by Newsom.

And Harris and Newsom endorsed Tuck’s opponent, union-backed incumbent Tom Torlakson, who won the race.

Originally published on

Kashkari’s Attention-Getting Ad has a Point

Neel Kashkari’s campaign for governor sought to gain attention with its first statewide television commercial and succeeded. The ad titled Betrayal depicts a boy drowning before being pulled to safety by Kashkari. The boy is symbolic of the school children Kashkari asserts have been abandoned by Governor Jerry Brown when he appealed the Vergara vs. California case.

The judge declared in Vergara that conditions in California schools for minority students “shock the conscience” in concluding that “grossly ineffective teachers” protected by the state’s teacher tenure laws deny minority students constitutional protections for an equal education.

Kashkari’s attention-getting ad is intended to get the media and, through the media, the people talking about this issue. With the one sided advantage the governor has in financial resources Kashkari is relying on an edgy campaign commercial to get his word out.

Brown argued that the appeal to a higher court was necessary if the teacher tenure laws are to be changed. Previously, I wrotethat an appellate ruling would be helpful in validating the lower court’s decision.

However, Brown’s reasoning for the appeal ignored the main question ruled upon by the Superior Court. He did not take a stand on the issue. He did not say that his goal with the appeal is to confirm that the current standards must change; that the students are being denied a quality education. He was silent on the issue.

By not speaking up for the students who brought the Vergara case it clearly appears that Brown is playing up to the teachers’ unions, as Kashkari charges. The unions adamantly want to wipe Vergara away.

I suppose there is something to say about the attention getting aspect of the ad – a boy drowning until pulled to safety by Kashkari. Attention to a child in jeopardy worked in the famous political commercial put out by Lyndon Johnson’s presidential campaign in 1964. A little girl picking flowers disappeared from the screen replaced by the mushroom cloud of an atomic explosion. That commercial actually ran only once but we are still talking about it 50 years later.

Kashkari, undoubtedly, was willing to use a dramatic image to get people talking.

Kashkari speaks of the problem examined in the Vergara case as a civil rights issue. If that is so, the dramatic ad to point out the issue can be compared to the demonstrations that were criticized during the civil rights era. They brought attention. But, the key for Kashkari is that people examine the core point he is making – that Brown is unwilling to stand up and proclaim that minority children are suffering under the current teacher protection laws supported by the unions — and not the ad’s image.

As Martin Luther King noted in his civil rights struggles of a half-century ago, while critics deplored demonstrations they failed to express similar concerns for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. He wanted his critics to deal with the underlying causes.

Kashkari hopes his commercial will bring attention to the underlying problem and those who resist change.

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily.