Archive for 2018

The Only Thing That Mattered in Gov’s TV Debate

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

gavindebateNothing that transpired in Tuesday’s “debate” among candidates for governor of California changed the one and only political question worth discussing about the June 5 preliminary vote: Will Antonio Villaraigosa finish second and set up a serious runoff contest, or will the fall campaign be the Gavin Newsom Coronation Tour?

Based on his subdued, low-energy performance in the statewide televised debate, Tony V appeared to believe he’s got the crucial runner-up spot in June in the bag.

But that’s far from certain, unless his campaign and the independent expenditure committee working on his behalf can turn out a powerful Latino vote to slingshot the former L.A. mayor past Republicans John Cox and/or Travis Allen.

antonio debateOffered a soft pitch he should have knocked out of the park – whether gender or ethnicity should matter in the election – Villaraigosa instead bunted: He was the first Latino speaker of the Assembly and mayor of Los Angeles, he noted. But, he said, “I want to be a governor that unites this great state. This is the most diverse state in the whole world … Yes, I would be the first, and I recognize that, but I also recognize that the role of the first is to open up the door for the rest.”

You can just imagine how electrifying that would be to Latino voters – voters without whom, Tony V (apparently trying not to disturb moderate and conservative whites he’d need against Newsom) might not even make it to November.

As a leading Latino operative tied into the pro-Tony forces told us: he was too cautious at a time when many of the voters he needs don’t even know there’s an election coming up.

The best thing Tony V had going in Tuesday’s debate was the incendiary performance by the rabid right-winger Allen, who has a bright future as a radio ranter if this whole governor thing doesn’t work out. If Allen can steal the Trumpistas from Cox, who seems like a loudmouth version of ex-L.A. Mayor Dick Riordan, the two GOP candidates may leave a space for Villaraigosa to come in second.


The Calbuzz scorecard. For the most part, Villaraigosa seemed tired, flat and devoid of passion for the incredibly challenging gig of succeeding Jerry Brown, California’s best governor since his father. There were moments, however, when his above-the-fray performance seemed mature and practical-minded compared to his rivals, as when he spoke specifically and substantively about what he had done as mayor in standing up to public employee unions to begin to address L.A.’s huge pension liability costs.

Similarly, Treasurer John Chiang deconstructed complex fiscal issues, from housing tax credits to the “bar bell system” of wealth distribution in California, and set forth concrete actions he has, or would, take to address them. But Chiang is the ultimate technocrat and badly needs a charisma implant.

As the front-runner and presumptive June 5 winner,  Newsom took most of the fire in the event and, to his credit, remained cool, articulate and composed.

Also: the tallest person on stage. Crucial factor for those who subscribe to the theory that the biggest candidate always wins.

Delaine Eastin consistently was the most wound up of the contenders. We admire her passion and energy, but Eastin is a one-note symphony:  she’s got only one gear – pedal-to-the-metal red line – – and one answer to everything – education, education and more education – which makes it seem like she thinks she”s running for her old job of state school supe, instead of governor.

The white-haired Cox is impressive looking, a central casting Republican governor, but bangs a little too heavy on the keys, apparently in an effort to seem as crazy as Allen in order to appeal to the Trumpkins base of the GOP that is most likely to vote in the primary.

Amid his throw-everything-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks act,  the knuckle-dragging assemblyman Allen took the toughest shot at Prince Gavin: “If you can’t trust Gavin with your best friend’s wife, how can you trust him with the state?” Allen asked, referring to a 2005 affair Newsom had with a staffer who was married to his campaign manager and best friend.

It was a pretty good line, but Prince Gavin knocked it down by noting the irony of such a critique coming from an avid supporter of Donald Trump, then launching into his standard me culpa, mea maxima culpa about how the skeevy episode actually has Made Me a Better Person. Gag.

To the surprise of no one, the Democrats all opposed Trump’s border wall and said they wouldn’t have horse-traded it even for safety for DACA dreamers. They all supported high speed rail, expanded health care, early childhood education and other liberal orthodoxies. The Republicans supported Trump’s border wall, opposed sanctuary cities and everything else that’s popular among most California voters.

Our old friend Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press” did his best to wrangle the candidates, but with 18 questions and answers held to 60 seconds what viewers experienced was a sort of political speed-dating with policy garnish tossed about.

foodfightA final word. Our four colleagues on the press panel mostly asked good questions, but with no time for follow-ups, they often went to waste as the candidates just riffed on their campaign talking points.

We’ve said it before and we say it again: get rid of the damn reporter panels in these set piece “debates”  and let a skilled moderator like Chuck ringmaster the whole affair, steering the conversation in ways that get the candidates talking to and against each other.

There were no injuries.

Bretón: Why Prince Gavin’s Character Fails the Test

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

BretonWith their clever attack ad on Republican John Cox, designed to elevate Cox and thereby keep fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa from coming in second in the June preliminary vote for governor, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign has proved its Machiavellian dexterity. But what of the man himself? At least one seasoned columnist is unimpressed. Here’s a devastating assessment, republished, from Marcos Bretón of the Sacramento Bee.

By Marcos Bretón

If Gavin Newsom is elected governor of California without so much as a speed bump on his political journey of entitlement, it may take future social scientists to explain why current California voters were so willing to give this guy a pass on all the things we know about him.

Can’t you see this picture for what it really is?

The 50-year-old lieutenant governor and former mayor of San Francisco is the living embodiment of privilege, and people seem to be OK with that. He has white male privilege. Class privilege. Wealth privilege. The privilege of good looks.

If one of Newsom’s opponents – say, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa or State Treasurer John Chiang – were bankrolled by one of the richest men in California for most of their lives, as Newsom has been by oil heir Gordon Getty, they would be answering for it every day on the campaign trail.

A Mexican American guy or an Asian guy having a rich, white sugar daddy greasing the skids for them at every critical turn of their adult lives would be viewed with suspicion. But that is what Newsom had with Getty.

Villaraigosa or Chiang would have been described as puppets. They would be described as being in the pocket of their patron. Meanwhile, Newsom has gotten to call himself an “entrepreneur” for years.

Yeah, that’s rich.

How much of an entrepreneur can you really be when one rich guy pumps huge money into just about everything you do?

gavinandgettyAgain, this isn’t a new story. Back in 2003, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that Getty helped Newsom become a millionaire by investing in every one of his ventures. A story in The Sacramento Bee a year ago chronicled Newsom’s ties to Getty and his financial benefits from them. Where would Newsom’s privileged portfolio be without Getty pumping money into his wine business, hospitality business, real estate business?

Getty was often the lead investor in Newsom businesses and, as it always does, money followed money. The picture of Newsom that has evolved over time is of a man who just naturally runs with the wealthy. He doesn’t generate headlines because, say, institutional money flows his way.

But when Villaraigosa gets a $12.5 million expenditure from billionaire Eli Broad, Reed Hastings of Netflix and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, it’s a story for days. It’s a story about evil charter school investors using Villaraigosa to take on public schools.

Villaraigosa was also criticized for working as a consultant for Herbalife, the L.A.-based nutritional supplements company targeted by the feds for deceptive business practices. Villaraigosa consulted for them after he was mayor of Los Angeles. Newsom’s wealth, according to many accounts, has risen since he became an elected official.

But apparently Newsom’s money is clean, and Villaraigosa’s is dirty. When you’re bankrolled by a rich patron, you don’t have to humble yourself by having to earn a living after you leave office, as Villaraigosa did.

Don’t take my word for it: “I think it’s unfair to candidates who are of modest means and can’t finance their own campaigns to assert or insinuate that every single entity they take campaign contributions from they’re in debt to,” Garry South, a political consultant who doesn’t have a candidate in the governor’s race, told the Los Angeles Times. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

Well, it doesn’t work that way for Newsom. He’s banked millions of dollars without the stain of patronage sticking to him. But Villaraigosa is accused of being in the pocket of charter schools or Herbalife.

Why is this? Why is it OK for one candidate to get rich while in office but another to get criticized for making money out of office?

The reasons go deeper than Villaraigosa’s brown skin and Chiang’s immigrant background creating bigger hurdles for them to clear.

If another gubernatorial candidate, Delaine Eastin, had slept with a subordinate while she was state superintendent of public instruction, and if the subordinate had gotten thousands of public dollars in a payoff not seen before or since, would the public even accept her as a candidate?

Before you answer that, consider Megan Barry, the now-disgraced ex-mayor of Nashville. Barry was the first female mayor of Nashville. She was a progressive star on the rise. She had an affair with the head of her security team. Barry and her lover were accused of misappropriating more than $11,000 in public money. Barry resigned, agreed to reimburse the money. Her lover will pay back more than $40,000 he banked in overtime while working for Barry.

OK, well, in 2007 Newsom had an affair with his appointments secretary. And she wasn’t just his secretary. She was married to one of his top political aides and best friend. After the affair became public, Newsom’s lover somehow landed a $10,000 payout in public money from a fund intended for city employees with catastrophic and life-threatening illnesses.

How can sleeping with Gavin Newsom be considered a catastrophic or life-theatening illness?

As The Bee’s Angela Hart reported: “(Ruby Rippey-Tourk) was given approval by the former director of San Francisco’s public health department, Mitch Katz, according to documents received by The Sacramento Bee. She was granted approval for her substance abuse problems – a rare qualification. (Katz is a close adviser to Newsom on health care.)”

“A 2007 investigation by the city attorney’s office found no one other than Rippey-Gibbey had been allowed to receive sick leave payments for substance abuse alone, and there were cases in which city employees were denied participation in the program for substance abuse unaccompanied by a life-threatening illness.,” Hart wrote.

So nobody else ever got a payout like this, except the woman who slept with Newsom? And it was granted by a guy who now works for Newsom. As usual, Newsom was cleared of wrongdoing. Of course he was.

gavinlookrightBut how do you sleep with the wife of your best friend? Where do your mind and soul go when you allow yourself to descend to such a dark place? But it gets better. Newsom told everyone he had a drinking problem. So his grievous betrayal became about substance abuse. He had a problem, right? The narrative became that Newsom was going to rehab. He let everyone believe that he was going into legitimate alcohol rehab. It was all part of the Newsom redemption tour.

And then suddenly, as reported by Hart last month, it turned out he didn’t. He went to some encounter group meetings run by one of his enablers. But real legitimate alcohol rehab? Nope.

Instead, he told Hart, “No, there’s no rehab. I just stopped. There was no treatment, no nothing related to any of that stuff. I stopped because I thought it was a good thing to stop.”

Well, if you “just stopped” drinking, that means you had control over it. If you have control over drink to where you can “just stop,” that means you have control of your faculties. That means you could have “just stopped” instead of sleeping with your best friend’s wife, but you did it anyway.

That means you really are capable of doing anything or saying anything. That means you don’t have my vote, pal.

But you do have that little privilege-think. It resurfaced again this week when a political ad by Republican candidate John Cox comparing Newsom infidelity with an affair Villaraigosa had with a TV reporter a decade ago. It was misleading and played right into Newsom’s hands. If the public thinks that their affairs were the same, it helps Newsom. Villaigosa’s affair, while costing him his marriage, was an issue of consenting adults. HIs lover wasn’t a government employee who got a big payoff.

That’s how privilege works in Newsom’s charmed life – even Republicans help him out.