SF Chronicle Enthuses Over 'Hotshot' Mayor Newsom

August 28th, 2008 4:21 PM

What do you do when you are the mayor of San Francisco and your poorly timed push for gay marriages is blamed for your party's loss in a presidential election, you get yourself involved in a sleazy sex scandal where you get caught sleeping with the wife of your campaign manager, and a much criticized policy of declaring the municipality you represent a "sanctuary city" results in a multiple murder by an illegal alien? Why you get the San Francisco Chronicle to write a glowing story about you enthusing about how you are a "hotshot to watch" with a bright political future on the horizon. Such is the case with San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, no stranger to other puff pieces such as this June story in Time magazine. San Francisco Chronicle political writers Joe Garofoli and Carla Marinucci use Newsom's appearance at the Democrat convention in San Francisco as a launch platform for gushing over their mayor's future:

As Bill Clinton and Joe Biden dominated center stage Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was presiding over "Unconventional '08," a street party held in an artsy warehouse corner of the city featuring indie bands and a knot of people young enough to be Biden's grandchildren. There, mingling beneath an art gallery facade full of iconic images of Sen. Barack Obama was the evening's host - the former Sen. Hillary Clinton delegate Newsom.

Before pouring sweet syrup over Newsom, Garofoli and Marinucci take us along on a brief but unpleasant trip down memory lane:

Four years ago, Newsom was a pariah at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Democrats were angry that he had sanctioned San Francisco to begin allowing same sex marriages, and blamed him for the backlash of anti-gay marriage initiatives across the country. He still sounds hurt talking about how some of his closest political mentors shunned him.

So how hurt was Newsom by the fact that his sanctuary city policy, which he was recently forced to drop, was widely blamed for the brutal murder of a local father and his two sons? Garofoli and Marinucci don't say. However this doesn't diminish their enthusiasm for how upbeat things are looking now for Newsom:

Much has changed this year. Newsom has been everywhere in Denver this week, boosting his national profile with a bottomless list of stop-bys and featured appearances. Within 36 hours, he was being vetted/honored by the Washington media elite, toasted by California's gay and lesbian caucus, and interviewing top Facebook and YouTube officials on his local talk show.

Before he was scheduled to go to his concert to "celebrate generation Obama," he was interviewed by top Newsweek editors and PBS, and stopped by a party thrown by Voto Latino, an organization trying to connect young Latinos through new media. A writer from Elle magazine has been trailing him for a forthcoming profile and the Sept. 1 issue of Time magazine lists Newsom as one of its five "hotshots to watch" Democrats.

And now that he is a "hotshot," it appears that Newsom is looking forward to a gubernatorial run in California with the help of Facebook:

While the animosity has largely faded, Newsom said he still feels it in some quarters. At least it bought some name recognition, which helps as Newsom is still in the exploratory phase of a 2010 run for governor - though his actions this week appear to be those of someone kicking into campaign mode. His strategy is rooted is the same as Obama's: Connect with young voters through online social networks and new media. Newsom has connected to 10,000 supporters on his Facebook page, one of the highest numbers for a politician in the country, said Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer and head of global public policy for Facebook.

"He was an early adopter of Facebook and has an excellent understanding of how technology can be used in the political realm," Kelly said.

Not only was Newsom declared to be a "hotshot" but he also appeared at a "Hotshots to Watch" panel:

Both Newsom and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris appeared Tuesday at a Time magazine panel on "Hotshots to Watch" panel along with Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala. Obama appeared on the same panel before the 2004 convention.

Their audience was a few dozen A-list media influencers: Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Joe Scarborough, Time magazine Managing Editor Richard Stengel and columnist Joe Klein, and Jonathan Capehart, an editorial writer specializing in politics for the Washington Post. Several major Democratic donors were there.

"This is probably one of the most important auditions they'll go through in their lives," said Capehart, who has dined with Newsom in New York in the past. "We are always watching for up-and-coming players. So when we hear their names again, we'll say, 'Oh, I saw them on that panel and they were great.' "

Yes, being on a hotshot panel is so important for the media elites. Whether such an event registers with actual voters is another story. However, being a hotshot does help you get recognized by one of the biggest power players out there, Oprah Winfrey's best friend:

Perhaps the biggest power player in the room was Gayle King, Oprah Winfrey's best friend and editor-at-large of O Magazine. As Obama knows, the blessing of Oprah goes far. But King said that just because Newsom and Harris may be on her radar now doesn't mean they're necessarily on Winfrey's.

"Oprah is not a political animal. That's why her endorsement of Barack is such a big deal," King said. As for Newsom?

"He's cute. And hot," King said and laughed. "I love the position he took on gay marriage. Yeah, he had that kerfuffle a while back with that woman," referring to revelations last year of Newsom's affair with the wife of a top aide.

So does the kerfuffle affect King's opinion of him? She paused briefly and raised her eyebrows. "Any-waaaays ... he's still a great mayor," King said. I don't know what he's going to be doing next, but you know it's going to be something."

John Edwards could only wish that his scandal could be brushed off as a mere "kerfuffle." Perhaps Gavin Newsom could seal Oprah's endorsement for his gubernatorial race by performing the Tom Cruise trampoline act on one of her couches.