Thursday, March 12, 2009

Newsom Courts California's Left; Says State's Fiscal Crisis Can Be Fixed

Putting a positive spin on California's continuing fiscal crisis, San Francisco Mayor and likely gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom says the problems can be fixed, though he did not offer specifics. The Democrat also maintained his support for same-sex marriage.

“I don't think there's anything particularly extraordinary about the state's problems,” Newsom said Wednesday night at The Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco. He later criticized the lack of creativity from state lawmakers. “The problem we have in Sacramento is an absence of new ideas,” he said.

Newson's visage has recently blanketed the national media, appearing on seemingly every possible news program in an appeal to gain visibility in advance of a probable run for governor. The mayor has also held numerous town hall-style meetings up and down the state and said he believes voters in predominately conservative counties like Placer share most of the same concerns as liberal voters.

"We have the exact same concerns,” said Newsom, “People there have different perspectives and points of view on many issues, but when it comes down to it, at this time, in the world we live in, in the environment we're living in, it's about jobs, it's about education, it's about health care, it's about roads, infrastructure.”

But it was the contentious issue of same-sex marriage to which the mayor is invariably linked by pundits across the nation that was the portion of the hour-long program where Newsom seemed to hit his stride and rationalized his infamous rallying call that proponents of Proposition 8 successfully used against him.

“I learned that I prefer to be the guy that made a mistake saying, 'whether you like it or not' than the guy who just sits there and plays in the margin," said Newsom, "I'm not going play it safe. I'm going to be authentic. I'm going to be myself. You may not like me, but you know where I stand.”

For a politician with state-wide aspirations, Newsom's appeal appears targeted to the most progressive wing of the California electorate, despite the unpopularity and the politically peril that supporting same-sex marriage poses to his candidacy. He was unapologetic in response to a question from moderator Scott Shafer, who at times sparred with Newsom, saying he did not regret officiating the marrying of the first same-sex couple in the city five years ago.

“The idea that someone wants to share that moment and that experience of something that has been denied them their entire life and they want you to share that, and for [me] to say no because I'm worried about my politics is everything I'm not about. If I was worried about politics I would have never done this, ever. Do you think it's helped in the context of everything else? These guys are running around -- these politicians -- on this.

"I know it's not good politics," he continued. "I understand it better than any human being alive. Every single day people are expressing their point of view about how outraged they are and every consultant saying, 'Well, just tone it down.' I can't tone [down] something as fundamental as someone else's rights. If a politician can put aside someone else's rights so they can get ahead politically ... you've got a million politicians who wish to do that. I'm never going to be that person. I never will.”

At one point early in the program, Newsom sounded a bit like an auctioneer, listing his accomplishments and talking points for a nearly two-minute stretch elicited a few groans from the audience. The point was not lost on the mayor. Later, Newsom was asked about his fight with dyslexia and said that “everyone overcompensates in their own way,” and that he has an ability to retain facts and figures that tend to muddle his message. “It's given me more empathy for special education and to recognize that we are not all wired the same, and we all have a wonderful capacity to live our lives out loud.”

--By Steven Tavares


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