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How Padilla Plans to Sell Newsom to Latino Voters

Monday, July 20th, 2009

padillaFollowing Gavin Newsom’s breathless press release announcing that he has enlisted State Sen. Alex Padilla to serve as “chair” of his campaign for governor, Calbuzz was keen to find out how Padilla – a bright, young, Democratic rising star in East Valley LA politics – intends to sell Prince Gavin to California Latinos.

Clearly, the Prince of Prides has got some work to do among Hispanics who, if history is a quide, will likely comprise about 15-18% of the Democratic primary vote in 2010. Polling by JMM Research in June found that the San Francisco mayor trails Attorney General Jerry Brown among Latinos 22%- to-51%, in a two-way race.

Obviously, this is partly because Latino voters don’t know Newsom like they do Brown. The General’s favorable-unfavorable was 42-to-3% among Latinos; for Newsom it was 15-8% (that’s 77% with no opinion whatsoever). But it may also reflect, in part, some cognitive dissonance among those who do know him, because Latino voters (at 53-to- 47%) were second only to blacks (70-to-30%) in support of Proposition 8’s ban on gay marriage.

So Calbuzz was eager to chat with Padilla, the former LA City Council president who is part of an East Valley political brokerage led by James Acevedo, an ex-Brown Beret turned developer and consultant, along with LA City Councilman Tony Cardenas. (These guys supported Jimmy Hahn over Tony V in the 2001 mayor’s race but backed Antonio four years later.)

We asked Padilla what he will point to about Newsom to convince Latinos to support him instead of Brown (who was an ally of Caesar Chavez’s, signed the Agricultural Relations Act into law, appointed Cruz Reynoso to the California Supreme Court and Mario Obledo to his cabinet).

“I’m not going to say anything different to the Latino community than I will to anybody else,” Padilla told us. “Latinos care about the same things all other voters care about.”

Here’s part of Padilla’s press-release spin and what it means (Content Alert: Put on your official Calbuzz Decoder Ring to see the actual translations.)

“Mayor Newsom personifies California’s brighter future. He reflects a new generation of leadership that will bring bold, innovative ideas and a nationally recognized record of reform to the governor’s office.”

– Translation: Gavin’s the young guy, with new ideas as opposed to Jerry, the old guy drooling soup on his tie.

“Gavin’s politics reflect the majority of our state: socially progressive, fiscally responsible, environmentally active and unequivocally dedicated to the promise of quality public education and health care for everyone.”

– Translation: He’s a Democrat.

“I appreciate and admire Gavin’s fight to ensure that every man, woman and child has full access to those rights and opportunities so integral to the California Dream. His entire political career, he has followed deeply-held core principles, not poll numbers.”

– Translation: To the extent that I have to deal with it, I’ve been told to reframe the whole gay marriage deal as an act of great political courage.

In our interview, Padilla, smart and articulate, echoed these generic themes, saying that Latinos will rally to Newsom, once they know about his vision, his record in San Francisco and his plans for California.

As for Newsom’s close association with gay marriage, “I don’t think it’ll be any more or less of an issue (with Latinos) than it will be for any other voters,” Padilla said. “It’s not a concern to me that it will be an issue that will impede him in reaching out to Latino voters.”

In other words, there’s nothing about Newsom that Padilla can cite to appeal specifically to Latinos and to chip away at Brown’s history among that important cohort of voters. If the campaign has a plan to address concerns Latino voters might have about gay marriage, Padilla wasn’t letting on about it.

Still, Padilla “is a genuine future big league talent,” as Richie Ross, Calbuzz’s resident expert on Latino politics in the state, put it (Padilla’s not his client). And getting him on board “is not an insignificant deal” for Newsom; before this, Brown had everything among Latinos and now “Gavin has something,” Ross added.

Or, as one of our trench-warfare sources in Los Angeles observed: “It’s always better to have something than nothing. He now has a recognizable Latino on his team.”

On the other hand, said this LA knife-fighter, “Where Gavin is hurt in the Latino community because of gay marriage, Padilla is not going to help him.”

gavinspeakingBTW, “actual reporting” kudos to Tony Castro of the LA Daily News,  for catching up with Acevedo, the Padilla ally and patron of East Valley politics, after the Prince did a big town hall meeting at Taft High School in Woodland Hills, last week.

Boss Acevedo, who supported Brown in past campaigns, said Newsom has a challenge because the former governor remains popular in Los Angeles in general and among Latinos in particular.

“I think (Brown) is going to have a very strong constituency among Latinos,” said Acevedo. “Few people know Newsom outside his own city, and I think it’s going to be tough for him to try to create a constituency among Latinos.”

– By Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine