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Newsom officially enters governor’s race -- and Twitters the announcement

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made official Tuesday what Californians who have watched him traverse the state for months already suspected -- he is running for governor in 2010.

As might be expected for a campaign that has tried to maximize its presence on social networking websites, Newsom made the announcement electronically: “Today, I am announcing, via Tweet, my candidacy for governor,” the Democrat’s website declared.

“It’s official -- running for Gov of CA. Wanted you to be the first to know. Need your help,” he said on his Twitter feed, the real-time microblog that limits missives to 140 characters.

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The San Francisco mayor’s entrance into the race came as the only other official Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, prepared to switch to a race for Congress. According to sources close to him, Garamendi is expected to announce shortly that he will seek the seat to be vacated by Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Alamo) after she takes a State Department post later this year. His race for governor has been crippled by fundraising difficulties.

Newsom is seeking the governorship by overtly adopting the generational and technology-savvy approach that marked Barack Obama’s successful presidential campaign. The 41-year-old mayor was none too subtle in an announcement video that appeared on his website.

“The truth is we can’t afford to keep returning to the same old tired ideas and expect a different result,” he said. “We need new ideas and bold, fresh innovative solutions to get out of this mess.”

In an interview, he brushed aside the suggestion that his gibe was aimed at his older probable opponents, Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who is three decades his elder, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is 56. Brown has been actively, if unofficially, running for months; Villaraigosa has been awaiting his second mayoral inaugural before formally deciding whether to run.

“I am not running a race against Jerry Brown,” Newsom said in the interview. “He hasn’t even entered. I’m running a race that seems natural and intuitive and that may be generational -- that’s taking advantage of what seems most natural to me.”

As he has while unofficially campaigning, Newsom on Tuesday contrasted the state’s teetering economy and widespread government cutbacks with his city’s plans to expand healthcare and protect schools.

“No teachers are getting laid off in San Francisco,” he said, crediting in part what he called his “entrepreneurial perspective.” Before entering politics, Newsom was a partner in a restaurant and winery business.

His emphasis on the economy not only dovetails with voter sentiment now -- the recession is paramount in voters’ minds -- but it also serves to reintroduce Newsom to Californians who might otherwise know him only for his high-profile role in promoting gay marriages in 2004. The subject of gay marriage was introduced, obliquely, at the end of his website’s announcement video.

“You know where I stand on important issues like universal healthcare, creating green collar jobs and protecting equality for all Americans,” he said.

In the interview, he described himself as “not an ideologue” but said those who disagreed with his positions on issues such as gay marriage would know where he stood.

“Politicians are a dime a dozen, truly. If you’re going to have someone put their finger in the air” -- to gauge popular opinion -- “you can get a computer program to do that.”

A Field Poll last month showed Newsom in third place among Democrats seen as most likely to run for governor, behind Brown and Villaraigosa. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein runs well ahead of the pack but has not taken steps to enter the race.

Those seeking the Republican nomination to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger include state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, former EBay chief Meg Whitman and former congressman and Schwarzenegger finance director Tom Campbell.

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cathleen.decker@latimes.com


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