The big news out of California last Friday was the announcement by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom that he was dropping out of the race for governor of California. In suspending his campaign, Newsom claimed his withdrawal was due to “personal and family reasons” — but it is far more likely that the strident mayor of one of the greatest bastions of liberalism in America dropped out because he was having a very difficult time raising campaign funds. Also, polls continued to show him in a double-digit deficit to his only opponent for the Democratic nomination, former California governor — now state attorney general Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown.
Obviously those of us who closely follow California politics are sorely disappointed by Newsom’s decision on the grounds that the left-on-left food fight between these two Bay Area liberals would have been a great spectator sport.
That said, the 71-year-old Jerry Brown, who served as governor of the Golden State from 1974 through 1982, is said to be all smiles right now. Conventional wisdom is that Brown, who had raised over $7 million into his campaign coffers as of the end of June when campaign reports were last made public (much of this from public employee unions) will be sitting pretty as he will no longer have to empty much of his bank account on a primary challenge, nor will he have to endure scathing attacks from Newsom. In the meantime wealthy GOP gubernatorial contenders Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman are expected to unload untold millions in what has already turned into a nasty Republican primary.
But Newsom’s departure is not all good news for Brown. First and foremost, the San Francisco mayor has such a high profile and is so strident that his presence in the race allowed Brown to low-key it, and actually try to position himself as more of a moderate (if you can believe that) in the race. The absence of Newsom will now cause Brown’s record as a long-time liberal right into the spotlight. Secondly, competitive primaries often times have the effect of motivating the base, exciting core voters. If Brown coasts into the nomination in June, look for millions of California voters who are independents to cast their ballots in the contentious GOP primary, which could mean a higher likelihood that they vote for that Republican in November.
Of course, who replaces Arnold Schwarzenegger in the governor’s office come January of 2011 will be of immense importance to Californians. But there are national implications as well given that decennial redistricting will take place, and a Democrat governor could sign a redraw of House Districts that could see seven or more Republican districts move to the party of Obama . . . stay tuned.
– Jon Fleischman is publisher of www.flashreport.org.