The first step toward being governor

Mayor Gavin Newsom made it unofficially official that will he will run for governor in 2010.

Six weeks after scoring the biggest political victory of his career with the California Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriages, Newsom signed state paperwork Tuesday allowing him to start building a war chest of cash in what is expected to be a highly contentious race for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s job when he is termed out.

“We are offering different perspective, more bottom-up approach to problems. Counties and cities can do a lot more,” Newsom said of his potential run. “The approach that we’ve taken in Sacramento is a top-down approach and I think it’s outlived its usefulness.”

On Tuesday, the 40-year-old mayor submitted paperwork to the secretary of state to form an exploratory committee that will allow fundraising to hire a staff, conduct polling and produce mailers. Although not an official declaration of candidacy, Newsom’s move is viewed by state capital insiders as an unofficial bid for the office.

“This is a technical step to begin organizing a committee so he can make the decision from a position of knowledge and strength,” said Newsom’s chief political consultant, Eric Jaye, who along with former Newsom spokesman Peter Ragone and others is helping to organize the committee.

The ambitious mayor always has been viewed as a rising star of the Democratic Party, even after he authorized same-sex marriages in 2004. The decision angered some Democrats, who said the maverick move cost the party the White House, and he was publicly shunned by some at the Democratic National Convention that year.

The May 15 state Supreme Court ruling that overturned current laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional thrust Newsom back into the state and national spotlight. He said he will take a lead position in the statewide campaign against Proposition 8 — a constitutional amendment on the November ballot prohibiting same-sex marriage.

The victory comes amid a mayoral tenure that has seen its share of controversy — an admitted affair with a married staffer as well as a drinking problem. However, Newsom’s tenure as mayor also placed The City at the forefront of policy innovation, including a program for universal health care access for residents, a revamping of welfare payments to house the homeless, and initiatives to improve the environment and grow the green-technology industry.

“There are some fundamentals here that San Francisco can share with the rest of the state and that’s what we want to do,” Newsom said.

The mayor raised more than $2 million in his latest bid for re-election in 2007, when he faced no substantial challengers, but he will need much more than that to take on a statewide campaign with more than a handful of well-known potential candidates.

For his re-election bid in 2006, Republican Schwarzenegger raised $43 million when he faced a challenge from Democratic state Treasurer Phil Angelides.

The cadre of California politicians examining a bid for governor is growing, with two other politicians also formally exploring the Democratic nod: U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez and Vibert Greene, according to the secretary of state.

There also are a handful of Democrats who are likely to run who have not yet formed exploratory committees.

Successful run could be a wild card for supervisors

A successful gubernatorial election for Gavin Newsom could lead to dramatic political theater for The City with San Francisco’s supervisors sitting in the front row.

If the Mayor’s Office becomes vacant because of death, resignation, recall, permanent disability or the inability to carry out the responsibilities of the office, the replacement would be picked by the Board of Supervisors rather than through a popular vote, according to rules amending the City Charter in 2001.

If Newsom resigns to become California governor Jan. 1, 2011, the president of the Board of Supervisors would temporarily take on the mayor’s duties, according to John Arntz, director of The City’s Elections Department. A replacement would then be chosen by the full board within 120 days.

The replacement would govern the city and county of San Francisco until the next mayor is elected in November 2011.

Four of the seats of the 11-member board will become open due to term limits. Three others could remain: Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Sean Elsbernd are up for re-election and would be on the board in 2011 if voters put them back in their seats. Additionally, appointed Supervisor Carmen Chu is campaigning for her seat, and if elected, would be on the board in 2011.

— Brent Begin

Mayoral facts

Full name: Gavin Christopher Newsom

Born: Oct. 10, 1967

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Santa Clara University in 1989

Business: Founder of PlumpJack Group, which now operates 15 businesses, including restaurants and wineries in Northern California

Marital status: Divorced in 2005; engaged to model-actress Jennifer Siebel in 2007

Political career:

» Appointed to Board of Supervisors in 1997

» Elected to Board of Supervisors in 1998

» Elected mayor in 2003

» Re-elected mayor in 2007

Other possible gubernatorial contenders

Loretta Sanchez

Age: 48


» Served in the House since 1997

» Member of House Select Committee on Homeland Security

Jerry Brown

Age: 70


» Two terms as governor from 1975-83

» Two terms as Oakland mayor

» Serving as California attorney general, elected in 2006

John Garamendi

Age: 63


» Two terms as insurance commissioner

» 17 years as a state Senate and Assembly member

» Currently lieutenant governor

Antonio Villaraigosa

Age: 55


» State Assembly member for six years, Assembly speaker for three years

» Current Los Angeles mayor

Steve Westly

Age: 50


» Top Democratic candidate in 2006 recall election

» Served as California controller between 2003-07

Bill Lockyer

Age: 67


» Ex-California attorney general

» Former state Senate and Assembly member

» Currently state treasurer

Newsom’s political benefactors

Hillary Clinton

The New York senator was endorsed by Newsom in August for the Democratic presidential primary. Also, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, campaigned for Newsom when he ran against Green Party mayoral candidate Matt Gonzalez in 2003.

Fisher Family

The Gap founder, Don Fisher, and his wife, Doris, havedone more than build a clothing empire in San Francisco — they have donated, along with the rest of their family, thousands of dollars to several of Newsom’s campaigns throughout the years.

Nancy Pelosi

The current speaker of the House — the first woman to hold that position — may hold some sway in San Francisco because of the neighbohoods her district covers. The Democratic heavyweight has endorsed Newsom during both of his successful runs for mayor.

Gordon Getty

The venture capitalist and philanthropist, along with numerous other members of the Getty clan, has financed Newsom’s political ambitions. Along with the politics, Getty has aided Newsom in the business arena, helping to finance the PlumpJack Group.

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