Archive for 2009

We’re Just Sayin’: An Insider’s Guide to Gavin-speak

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

If this whole governor thing doesn’t work out for Gavin Newsom, he’s well positioned for a new career writing epigrams for Hallmark.

On the trail, his high-energy speaking style features a quirky linguistic tic: Newsom routinely stems the flow of his words by suddenly inserting a phrase like, “I always say,” then quickly follows with an aphorism that makes it seem he’s channeling Tony Robbins channeling the Book of Proverbs with a dash of Khalil Gibran thrown in. No wonder this guy loves Twitter.

At a campaign town hall that drew 250 people in Santa Barbara the other night, the Democrat answered questions for two hours, and his full-speed-ahead political patois was for the most part polished and, at times, even persuasive. Time and again, however, when it seemed his rapid rush of words pushed him into some verbal cul de sac, oh say, a furlong or so ahead of his brain, he’d revert to some hoary maxim, as if he’d cadged a list of bumper strip slogans on the drive from the hotel to the hall.

“To say is not to do,” he said at least three times, as a way of explaining how his self-described accomplishments as the mayor overseeing the San Francisco Miracle contrast to the utter failure by every other California politician to achieve much of anything at all.

“I always say . . . that it’s decisions, not conditions, that determine our fate,” he offered at another point, after a full-barreled reflection on the minimum wage ran out of steam.

“I always say . . . the difference between success and failure is the difference between interested people and committed people,” he said at another juncture, shortly after propounding the Ben Franklin-like precept that, “You can’t be pro-jobs and anti-business.”

Reaching back five centuries, he gave credit to Michelangelo for wisely asserting that, “The biggest risk is not that you aim too high and miss, but that you aim too low and succeed” (What Michelangelo actually said, at least in translation, was “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low, and we realize it.”) Newsom’s version is close enough for political work and fits more comfortably within the 140-character limit of a Tweet.

Wrapping up his town hall, Newsom naturally made a pitch for everyone to become his friend on Facebook: “It’s not a time of life, it’s a state of mind,” he assured the fair number of elderly in the crowd.

As a public service, in the interest of sparing Newsom’s future audiences too much repetition, calbuzz offers these adages for his use, free of charge.

As we always say:
— “Dogs bark, but the caravan rolls on.”
— “The future lies ahead.”
— “I’m just going to take it one day at a time.”
— “Revenge is a dish best served cold”
— “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
— “(fill in the blank) level playing field.”
— “An eye for an eye, and the whole world would be blind.”
— “Education is the key to the future.”
— “There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip.”
— “Don’t come a knockin’ if this van is rockin’.”
— “I can see Oakland from my house.”
— “The only poll that counts is the one on election day.”

We’ll Always Have Paris: Willie Brown Bonds with Le Maire

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

By Calbuzzer Gale Kaufman

Bernard Delanoe, the elegant mayor of Paris, warmly welcomed Willie Brown and his 120-member posse to a private reception marking the Speaker’s 75th birthday on Friday at Hotel de Ville, as the City Hall is called.

The city’s first openly gay maire, Delanoe presented Willie with a beautiful pair of cuff links and told him that Paris would always welcome him. Mr. Speaker returned the favor, giving him an old book of San Francisco photos. The mayor’s formal office is a spectacular room with Baccarat crystal chandeliers that replicates the long corridor of Versailles. Needless to say, Willie looked quite at home.

We were all in formal wear and black tie for the birthday dinner that followed, at a private chateau called Pavillon de Musique de la Comtesse du Barr, which had extraordinary views of the city from almost every window.

After dinner, the servers brought out an ice sculpture of the Eiffel Tower etched with “Willie Brown 75th Brithday” with several cakes on either side of it. Amid the round of toasts, the only time Willie looked alarmed was when his older sister – “Baby Doll” – got up, but she said only nice things, to his obvious relief.

He told me afterwards that everyone should do something like this once or twice in his life – gather best friends and family together and celebrate in a spectacular fashion. Boy, does this man know how to throw a party.

Gale Kaufman is a Democratic consultant based in Sacramento.

Newsom: San Francisco Values an "Advantage" in Governor’s Race

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom not only has to beat a batch of better-known rivals in the Democratic primary for governor, but also must overcome the Curse of Sunny Jim.

James “Sunny Jim” Rolph, Jr. was the last person who served as mayor of that city to be elected governor of California. The longest-serving mayor in San Francisco history — 1912-1930 -– Rolph was also the last sitting S.F. alcalde to be governor.

Since he died in office in 1934, three other big-name mayors of the town tried and failed to duplicate the feat:

Joe Alioto’s 1974 effort was skunked by Jerry Brown (who liked the experience so much he’s trying it again 35 years later).

George Christopher, the last Republican to be S.F. mayor, couldn’t overcome some guy named Reagan in the 1966 GOP primary (Christopher also has the footnote distinction of running for lieutenant governor in 1962, when Richard Nixon was humiliated by Jerry’s dad in the governor’s race and promised – falsely – that we wouldn’t have him to kick around anymore).

And Dianne Feinstein, the Hamlette of the 2010 governor’s race, got tripped up in 1990, three years out of the mayor’s office, when Pete Wilson’s mean machine used her San Francisco-centric words and deeds on issues like affirmative action, illegal immigration and gay rights to run over her.

Now Newsom, who’s best known for being the state’s most visible advocate for gay marriage – “whether you like it or not,” as he famously crowed in the best pro-Proposition 8 ad of that winning campaign last year – thinks his San Francisco connection will give him a boost in the campaign for governor.

In a recent interview, we posed this question to Newsom: How will you overcome the negative associations many Californians have about your city and San Francisco values?

“It’s an advantage right now,” Newsom replied. “We’re outperforming the rest of the state in many ways –- we have fewer job losses, we have a budget reserve, our bond rating was upgraded, we’ve passed universal health care, which is a top-of-mind issue –- these are all rather transcendent issues right now.”

As for gay marriage, Newsom told us that the weight of the recession and economic decline have made the polarized issue of same-sex unions a second-tier concern. “People…have moved on,” he said. Uh, except for that whole Prop. 8, Supreme Court thing.

Before a town hall event this week in Santa Barbara, calbuzz’s World Marketing Headquarters, Newsom said that as governor he would:

— Fight to change the two-thirds vote requirements for passing a budget and raising taxes in the Legislature, to end the GOP’s minority veto. Government by Twitter: Newsom said he had favored a 55-percent requirement, but a recent “firestorm” of comments to his Twitter account convinced him to rethink a 50-percent-plus-one standard.

— Consider an amendment to Proposition 13 establishing a split roll property tax assessment system, relaxing limits on annual increases for commercial real estate while leaving intact restrictions on residential property raises, a change that would generate billions for government. Prop. 13 long has been the third rail of California politics, but Newsom said that voters he has met “want that to be on the table.”

— Rule out future increases in state income tax rates, but might support a plan to “modernize” the state sales tax, lowering the rate but extending it beyond sales of goods to a range of services.

— Oppose any expansion of offshore oil drilling in California. Newsom said he was “disappointed that Obama changed his position on that.”

— Support efforts, as a matter of public safety, to permit illegal immigrants to have drivers’ licenses. Newsom pointed with pride to a widely inclusive system for public identity cards in San Francisco, calling it “a national model.”

Buzzcard: Live at Willie’s 75th in Paris

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

By Calbuzzer Gale Kaufman

PARIS – Willie Brown invited 120 of his closest friends to join him in the City of Lights to celebrate his 75th birthday and we all toasted Mr. Speaker last night while sailing the Seine on a private yacht. Dining fine and sipping wine, at 10 p.m. we passed the Eiffel Tower, whose lights obligingly blinked on and off for us.

Willie looked great in a khaki baseball cap with his signature stitched on – we all got a copy, of course – and a matching khaki coat, surrounded by family and friends, as always drinking and partying until the wee hours.

When Steve and I arrived yesterday, folks told us the weather has been horrible but it cleared up for the big bash. It made me think of how the sun burst through a storm just in time for Willie’s GOTV to crank in his first mayor’s race. Da Mayor, of course, claimed it was divine intervention.

On the yacht, any number of us remarked how nice it will be to just make it to 75, let alone celebrate it in “Willie Brown style.” Tomorrow: drinks with the mayor of Paris. Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Gale Kaufman is a Democratic consultant in Sacramento

California Conservatives Got No Horse for Governor

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

But At Least Meg Whitman’s Got One in Hand *

Consider the problems facing conservative California Republicans. We’re not talking about the low-tax, small government, laissez-faire fiscal folks. We’re talking about the unflinching, pro-life, pro-gun, anti-gay-marriage conservatives who have, for decades, served as keepers of the GOP flame.

These are the true-believers who attend party conventions, knock on doors and lick stamps for mailings and who vote in every Republican primary. There are just enough of them to make sure that there’s almost always one of their own representing their party in top-of-the-ticket general elections.

They’ve given us George Deukmejian, Dan Lungren, Bruce Herschensohn and Bill Simon for example. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger were exceptions to the rule. Wilson was drafted by desperate GOP grandees to run in the wide-open governor’s race in 1990. Schwarzenegger slipped by in the 2003 recall election; he likely could never have won a Republican primary.

But with Meg Whitman, the former EBay CEO, and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a former Silicon Valley executive, as the leading GOP contenders, and with moderate former San Jose Congressman. Tom Campbell considering a run, the genuine, red-blooded, God-fearing, movement conservatives have no candidate for governor to call their own this time out.

Whitman and Poizner (and Campbell, too) are pro-choice, for example, and Whitman even told our friend Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle she believes that since abortion is legal, “it has to be made available to women of all means.” That’s public funding, campers. Like Poizner, she supports parental consent for teenage girls, and opposes so-called “partial-birth abortion.” Both also support embryonic stem cell research – another taboo among uncompromising abortion foes.

“They’re both moderates,” says Mike Spence, president of the California Republican Assembly. But neither of them would be as bad as Schwarzenegger, he adds. “We want to see conservative things put into government. If a moderate does conservative things, that’s okay.”

At least, he says, they both oppose Proposition 1A, a key part of Schwarzenegger’s budget-bail-out package.

“Conservatives feel used and abused by Arnold Schwarzenegger,” explains Jon Fleischman, the indefatigable editor of the conservative blog Flash Report. Although Poizner has something of an advantage among conservatives – he’s a known entity and is working hard to build ties to the right wing of the party – the office he holds “is one statewide office most conservatives would say shouldn’t even exist” since its chief responsibility is to regulate an industry.

Fleischman wonders if either Poizner or Whitman, or both, will use their millions to become widely known across the state among the ideologues who vote in low-turn-out elections by airing television ads opposing Prop. 1A. That kind of strategic move could burnish their credentials among the movement conservatives – especially since it would pit them against Schwarzenegger.

In a very personal way, the Terminator, it seems, has turned a lot of arch-conservatives into pragmatists: they may just be happy to have a candidate who would oppose tax increases, even if they have to concede the social issues that have long defined their movement.

There’s some chatter about Ventura County Supervisor Peter Foy, who has some millions of his own, filling the void. But it’s not clear he could compete at the megabucks level at which Whitman and Poizner are prepared to play.

“Will most conservatives feel like hey have a conservative candidate in the race for governor? I don’t know,” Fleischman says. “But there’s a big opening for a well-funded conservative.”

* Thanks to John Wildermuth of the SF Chronicle for finding out the horse on the cover of Fortune was a rental prop named Brandy