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.”