I had coffee this morning with Garry South, wartime consigliere to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s gubernatorial campaign. We covered a lot of ground, engaged in a little back-and-forth smack-talk (devil’s advocacy on my part, of course); South was – ahem – a forceful advocate for his client, as always.
Clearly, the gloves are indeed coming off: Watch in coming weeks for a lot more young-vs.-old, forward-vs.-backward framing of Newsom’s race against presumptive Democratic primary rival state Attorney General Jerry Brown, with an exhaustive and non-complimentary review of Brown’s former gubernatorial tenure.
Among the questions I asked South was how having a ballot measure to repeal Proposition 8’s same-sex marriage ban on the November 2010 would impact the gubernatorial race. Somewhat unsurprisingly, he said it would have “no real impact on the dynamic of the race.”
Remember, Newsom is identified with the issue of gay marriage perhaps more than any other politician in America , given his 2004 order that San Francisco start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and his ardent advocacy for same-sex marriage rights ever since.
South said both Newsom and Brown will be viewed as same-sex marriage supporters who opposed Proposition 8 and support its repeal. Both the likely possible Republican nominees, Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman (sorry, Tom Campbell), would oppose its repeal, yet both are otherwise somewhat moderate on other social issues, he said – they’re pro-choice, pro-stem-cell research, environmentally savvy and support domestic partnership laws.
And neither Poizner nor Whitman wants to incur the wrath of the state’s decline-to-state voters, who not only account for 20 percent of California’s registered voters – a vital swing vote in the gubernatorial general election – but who also tended to oppose Proposition 8, according to polls before and after last November’s election.
I asked whether the church-going Democrats and decline-to-state voters who helped Proposition 8 prevail would be turned off by Newsom’s candidacy, but South argued most of them would split their votes, voting for Newsom and against Proposition 8’s repeal. He said he challenges anyone to demonstrate a case in which a ballot measure impacted a simultaneous gubernatorial election, other than Pete Wilson riding Proposition 187 to a come-from-behind re-election victory over Kathleen Brown in 1994.
South said Newsom’s principled stand on same-sex marriage is what catapulted him onto the political A-list, his ticket into the 2010 race, and he won’t have any need to run from it.
All that said, I can’t believe we’d get out of next year’s general-election season without seeing a revival of the “whether you like it or not” video clip, red meat for social conservatives across party lines. I guess we’ll see.