The key guy in putting together Bill Clinton’s endorsement of Gavin Newsom for governor is a 30-ish, big-time California political fundraiser named Yashar Hedayat, campaign insiders say.
Hedayat, who often travels with the San Francisco mayor on the campaign trail, is personal friends with both the Clintons and was a major bundler for Hillary’s presidential bid.
Hedayat “knows everybody in the Western Hemisphere,” one source said. “He nailed down the (endorsement) commitment and the date.”
Bill Clinton has been a political ally of Newsom’s dating back at least to 2003, when he campaigned for him during his run-off against former S.F. supervisor Matt Gonzalez. Newsom later became a national co-chair of Hillary’s campaign (in which Hedayat served as a “Hillraiser”) and also spoke at a Clinton Global Initiative event last year.
In April, while back East on a fundraising trip, Newsom paid a call on Bill Clinton to discuss the governor’s race, and received a characteristically prolific raft of political advice from the former president, who considers himself the Democratic consultant-in-chief.
When L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who also strongly backed Hillary Clinton, announced his decision not to run for governor two months later, “that set the ball in motion” for the endorsement, Calbuzz learned – and set the table for Hedayat to close the deal.
The former president was already well-motivated, as we reported on Tuesday, because there has long been bad blood Clinton and Jerry Brown, Newsom’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination for governor.
In addition to the now well-publicized clashes between the two in the 1992 presidential campaign, Brown as early as 1991 charged in an interview that Clinton was “bought and paid for” by special interests, a theme he pounded for months. For example, Brown at one point called Clinton “the prince of sleaze,” and condemned him for “begging and groveling for money.”
Brown’s attacks grew so fierce that Jimmy Carter (whom Brown had challenged in the 1976 presidential primaries and again in 1980, when Carter was the incumbent president) publicly chastised him, while the late Ron Brown, then the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, ripped Jerry Brown for “a scorched earth policy” of “inappropriate attacks.”
After Clinton was elected, Brown evolved into his full “We the People” populist identity, which included a radio show on which he regularly dumped on Clinton as a corporate tool.
And in 1996, Brown famously punctuated a state Democratic party convention tribute to his father, the late Gov. Pat Brown, with a jeremiad in which he ripped Clinton – as well as Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer – for supporting a “fascistic” and “phony” anti-terrorism bill.
Further alienating Clintonista party regulars, Brown in 1998 turned his back on Democrats entirely, later acknowledging that he voted for Ralph Nader **over Clinton veep Al Gore in the 2000 presidential campaign in 1996. He later re-registered as a nonpartisan independent to run successfully for mayor of Oakland.
In fact, walking down memory lane, the only mystery is why Clinton didn’t endorse Newsom sooner.
For his part, Brown seems sanguine about the endorsement. He wouldn’t bite when Calbuzz asked him about it at the Silicon Valley Leadership Conference Wednesday, an attitude that spokesman Steve Glazer summed up in a comment to the Chron’s Matier and Ross: “Have you ever quoted a shrug?”
Crusty the General did note, as a matter of fact, that Clinton had endorsed Terry McAuliffe in the 2009 governor’s race in Virginia and that his candidate was beaten in the Democratic primary.
**In an earlier version, we inaccurately reported that Brown endorsed Ralph Nader for president in 2000, a statement based on this widely-circulated story, which is in error. In fact, Brown voted for Nader in 1996, which he acknowledged on CNN in 1998. We criticize ourselves severely.