Newsom expands staff for potential gubernatorial run

Mayor Gavin Newsom has expanded his staff for a potential run for governor with the hiring of a California campaign guru and the polling firm that helped Sen. Barack Obama become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Newsom hired Garry South, who headed two successful gubernatorial elections for Gray Davis, as the new senior adviser of his exploratory committee for governor. A meeting between the two, along with Newsom’s wife, was recently captured by a blogger outside a Los Angeles cafe.

Newsom also retained BSG, a polling firm led by Joel Benenson, chief pollster for Obama, and Peter Brodnitz, who was named the pollster of the year by the American Association of Political Consultants in 2006. Newsom courted the firm during a trip to Austin, Texas, for a political blogging conference.

The announcement is only the first of many additions to the team, Newsom’s chief strategist Eric Jaye said. Newsom announced in June that he was organizing a committee to assess a potential run for governor in 2010 on a platform of “bold policy innovations” being implemented in San Francisco.

Newsom faces a tough crowd of Democratic challengers. Attorney General Jerry Brown and Sen. Dianne Feinstein are rumored to be eyeing the post, and Lt. Gov. John Garamendi has already formally announced his intention to run.

Brown has amassed almost $900,000 since January, doubling the coffers of the ambiguously titled Jerry Brown 2010 campaign. Though Brown has yet to announce a run for governor, the donations into his attorney general reelection campaign can be applied toward a run for governor, according to the state’s campaign finance laws.

Garamendi has also amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars, compared to Newsom’s current pot of about $50,000. Many on Newsom’s gubernatorial team are donating their time, and some are only being paid as part-time employees, Jaye said. He said Newsom has at least two fundraisers scheduled for this year.

“He’s not focusing right now on candidates, he’s focusing on ideas.” Jaye said. “He’ll do that by building the strongest team in America.”

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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