San Francisco Mayor Airs Feelings About JobNPR
October 30, 2006
Heard on Morning Edition October 30, 2006 -
RENEE MONTAGNE, host: Here in California, unusually candid comments from San Francisco’s mayor have caused a stir in political circles. During a television interview, Democrat Gavin Newsom did what many politicians rarely do; he said exactly what was on his mind. Here’s NPR’s Richard Gonzales.
RICHARD GONZALES: Gavin Newsom is one of the most popular mayors San Francisco has ever seen, with an approval rating hovering around 80 percent. He became a national figure when he boldly cleared the way for same-sex marriages to be performed at City Hall, a decision later overturned by the courts. He’s wealthy, good looking and routinely mentioned as one of California’s brightest political stars. That’s why more than a few eyebrows raised when the 39-year-old Newsom told a TV interviewer that he was not convinced that he wants to run for mayor again.
Mayor GAVIN NEWSOM (San Francisco, California): This is it. You only get one chance in this thing called life. And I know that sort of maudlin and absurd, but it’s a fact. And you know what? You can make a profound difference in people’s lives without having a title in front of your name.
GONZALES: And Newsom was just getting warm up. He said being mayor requires intensity and passion that some day’s he just doesn’t have, adding, I’m not sure I really what to do it for four more years. And I’m dead serious. (Soundbite of TV interview)
Mayor NEWSOM: Why the heck would someone of competence - and I may not be that person - but someone that’s says, you know, I don’t need this job. I love to get in politics - listen, you got to be crazy.
GONZALES: As Newsom bared his soul to journalist Phil Matier on San Francisco TV station KPIX, the recently divorced mayor expressed frustration with media attention on his private life, stories that are among other things have focused on his hair gel and on whether his new 20-year-old model girlfriend is old enough to drink. Now, the question on the minds of many San Franciscans: was the mayor serious about giving up politics or just having a bad day?
Mr. PETER KEEN(ph) (Golden Gate University Law School): I think it’s a fascinating insight into a rather brilliant young politician on a human level that you don’t usually get in the political sphere in the United States, and it’s somewhat refreshing. GONZALES: Peter Keen of Golden Gate University Law School says Newsom’s public remunerations show that he doesn’t fit the model of a hardened politician driven by ambition.
Mr. KEEN: Here you have someone who’s a rather thoughtful guy, and he’s stepping back and he’s looking at his life and he’s saying, is it a game worth the candle?
GONZALES: Yet Newsom, a man known to be less than guarded in his public comments, is running a risk, says political consultant Alex Clemens.
Mr. ALEX CLEMENS (Political Consultant): Some people may see you as attempting to have a groundswell of folks come out and say, oh, oh, Mr. Mayor, please run. Others may choose to attribute other negative attributes to it. I believe that the mayor is being frank about his ambivalence.
GONZALES: Meanwhile, Newsom’s political team is busy gearing up for a re-election campaign. San Francisco supervisor Chris Daly doubts that Newsom will drop out of the race.
Mr. CHRIS DALY (San Francisco Board of Supervisors): They’ve already raised more money than probably any potential opponent is going to raise, and it’s over a year out. They’re running. The mayor of San Francisco just has, you know, a little personal discontent with basically, you know, his honeymoon, which lasted about a year or two longer than most elected officials, is now starting to wear off.
GONZALES: Yet in Newsome’s state of the city speech last week, the mayor sounded every bit like a man who still relishes the challenges of fixing potholes, fighting crime and helping the homeless.
Mayor NEWSOM: I am proud of this city. And I am proud of the progress we have made. And I’m proud to be your mayor. Thank you all very, very much for being here. Now let’s get to work. Thank you very, very much.
GONZALES: A top aide to the mayor says Newsom may occasionally suffer a little human angst, but nothing is about to sidetrack his political future.
See this story on NPR