November 14, 2018


California's New Governor Has a Problem: His Own Party: Gavin Newsom was elected easily, and he's got a $9 billion surplus to play with. So why is he so nervous? (CARLA MARINUCCI, November 14, 2018, Politico)

Brown noted that unlike his predecessor, Newsom isn't a creature at home in Sacramento's insular political cultural or statewide Democratic Party machine politics. A business owner and entrepreneur who has enjoyed the backing of the Getty oil family, Newsom has frequently been labeled a "pro-business Democrat." Early in his political career, he even described himself as a "dogmatic fiscal conservative and a social liberal'' - a profile that has earned him barbs from the party's far left.

"He's not part of the Democratic Party on a fulltime basis. He's not part of organized labor on a fulltime basis. He's not part of the business world on a fulltime basis," Brown said. While "there will all these wannabes" crowding around to get part of his circle, he said, "the lobbyist types will be disappointed. ... Newsom never performed in that way. He has paid no interest to them. But he's smart enough, and sharp enough, to have talented folks seek him out."

In the final days of his gubernatorial campaign, camped out in the back of his big blue campaign bus, Newsom acknowledged that he'd told his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, he'd been feeling "butterflies," a combination of exhilaration, and a sobering gut check as the reality of that challenge set in.

"It's been such a long, multiyear journey," said a reflective Newsom in the waning hours of a dawn-to-dusk campaign barnstorm across California that would seal his win. And now, the reality is here: "There's an ending,' he said. "There's a real responsibility. That's the job."

Newsom acknowledged that it's daunting to be following Jerry Brown, a man who's "a master" of California political dialectic, calling him "exceptionally gifted, exceptionally skilled ... one of the best political minds of our generation."

But as much as Newsom respects Brown, he's got little time to waste -- there's a preliminary budget due on December 15, though he won't be formally sworn in until January 7. "I just want to get to work," he told POLITICO. "I'm not going to wait around for the first 100 days ... these transitions are pretty quick."

Newsom is approaching his first budget, which gets reviewed by the legislature in May, the way he approaches everything else: with deadly earnestness. It's "your first chance at a first impression ... demonstrably a reflection of your values," he said. And for one who has talked about prioritizing issues like early childhood education, he noted, it will be seen as a "proof point" of his commitments.

For months, Newsom has been quietly assembling 30 policy teams - experts in academic, tech, business and government; the groups have been examining the challenges ahead in issues ranging from health care and climate change to more granular topics like cybersecurity, job automation and government procurement. Those efforts have produced a series of in-depth policy papers over the last months.

So far, Newsom said, "I've been focusing on 'how.'" As the governor-elect, "I think the next phase is 'who.' ... You can make big mistakes in a transition - and often they're attached to personnel."

Already, Jason Kinney, a longtime Newsom advisor, resigned his spot at California Strategies, a powerhouse state lobbying firm, to help the former mayor navigate what he acknowledges will be critical decisions ahead.

And Newsom's first major picks, two veteran women in politics, have already won praise. His chief of staff - and the head of his transition team - will be Ann O'Leary, a former policy adviser to Hillary Clinton. And Ana Matosantos, who served as budget director to both Gov. Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be his Cabinet secretary - a key post that will serve as the new governor's chief contact to key government agencies and departments.

Friends say Newsom, while seeking the advice and views of his trusted staffers, relishes the work of governing, and is known to read policy papers from the moment he wakes up, highlighting in yellow and crowding the margins with notes.

"He's been looking at these issues for a long time and he is so far ahead of most people coming into this office on a policy level - because he really does love policy issues and he doesn't jump fast," said veteran Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman. "He's thoughtful in his approach."

Bill Whalen, a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution who was previously an adviser to Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, says the new job will require Newsom to tone down his national profile and go local. "He has to spend a lot of time talking to lawmakers, staying on top of bills, building relationships," he said. "Sacramento is a lot closer to Davis than to Davos. ... He has to take care of matters at home first."

Still, Whalen says it's a good sign that Newsom is one of the few Democrats who in the last year has visited the conservative think tank, in part to explore the views of some of the nation's most preeminent economists and policy experts on the other side of the aisle. Many came away impressed with the depths of the discussion, he said.

Posted by at November 14, 2018 4:09 AM