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Newsletter: The ballad of Gavin and Kimberly (and Kamala)

Gavin Newsom and his then-wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom
Gavin Newsom and his then-wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom (now just Kimberly Guilfoyle), celebrate his San Francisco mayoral election victory on Dec. 9, 2003.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Aug. 26, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

In a lacerating speech on Monday night, Kimberly Guilfoyle came down hard on her home state.

“If you want to see the socialist Biden-Harris future for our country, just take a look at California,” she said. “It is a place of immense wealth, immeasurable innovation, an immaculate environment, and the Democrats turned it into a land of discarded heroin needles in parks, riots in streets and blackouts in homes.”

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By the Democrats, she meant the political party that dominates the nation’s most populous state and has helped make it a perma-thorn in the president’s side. But one has to imagine she was also condemning the state’s Democratic leader. Which is where things get personal, as Guilfoyle used to be married to the man currently running California.

You see, Gavin Newsom (Guilfoyle’s ex-husband and the governor of California), Kimberly Guilfoyle (a top Trump advisor, and the girlfriend of the president’s son Donald Jr.) and Kamala Harris (the California senator and vice-presidential candidate) all go way back.

This is a story about the battle lines drawn in a high-stakes presidential election. But it’s also a story about three people — young, beautiful and bountifully ambitious — in the supercharged political playground of San Francisco just after the turn of the millennium, charting the courses that would eventually bring them here, to the forefront of the national conversation in 2020.

[See also: “Kimberly Guilfoyle went from San Francisco’s First Lady to bashing California at the RNC” in the Los Angeles Times]

So let’s revisit Guilfoyle and Newsom’s now almost inconceivable relationship, and the intersecting role Harris plays in both their stories. (If you do not enjoy slightly gossipy romps through the political archives, feel free to skip down a bit straight to the day’s headlines.)

Perhaps we should begin in 2001, at what the San Francisco Chronicle termed “the social event of the year.” The bride was a San Francisco prosecutor who had famously modeled through law school, the groom was a rising star county supervisor and the celebration began in a gardenia-filled Catholic church and continued at Ann and Gordon Getty’s Pacific Heights manse.

There were either 400, 500 or 600 guests in attendance at Newsom and Guilfoyle’s wedding, according to Women’s Wear Daily, W and Harper’s Bazaar, respectively. Like Harris, Guilfoyle and Newsom knew their way around the the close-knit upper tiers of San Francisco society, frequenting the same parties and appearing in the society pages.

By 2003, Newsom and Harris were running for the offices that would launch their big-time political careers, with Newsom angling to be the city’s mayor and Harris its district attorney. And both their candidacies had been blessed by legendary San Francisco kingmaker and then-outgoing mayor Willie Brown, who served as a mentor to each of them. Brown had also appointed Newsom and Harris to their first political commissions when they were in their 20s.

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Newsom’s glamorous relationship with Guilfoyle was part of his appeal at the time. As this paper reported in 2003, the pair had “amassed an army of upscale contributors and volunteers who believe the young couple can conjure a new era of Camelot in a city that thrives on social pomp and circumstance.”

By the time Newsom’s first mayoral race was well underway, Guilfoyle had left the D.A.'s office for her husband’s campaign and spots as a TV analyst — the latter paving the way for her eventual prime time role on Fox News, which led her to Trumpworld and, ultimately, the spot on the convention dais attacking California and the Biden-Harris ticket.

But it wasn’t the first time Guilfoyle had publicly attacked Harris. In 2003, a few weeks before the district attorney and mayoral races, Guilfoyle told a San Francisco Chronicle columnist about how she felt Harris had tried to stand in her way for an earlier job, insinuating they were far from friendly prosecutor office mates. Even after leaving the D.A.'s office, Guilfoyle was “still smarting from what she says was the frosty and underhanded treatment she got from Harris when she was making a bid to return to the D.A.'s office a couple of years back,” per the column.

Harris told the Chronicle she had no idea what Guilfoyle was talking about. “I’ve seen Kimberly a number of times over the last few months,” Harris said in 2003.

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Anyway, both Harris and Newsom won their respective races that year, making history together. The city’s youngest mayor in more than a century and the state’s first Black district attorney were sworn in on the same day in January 2004.

Newsom would make even more history a few months later, when he began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples — a controversial action that catapulted the mayor onto the national stage. The next January — a year and two days after he’d taken office — Newsom and Guilfoyle released a statement announcing their separation. They officially divorced in 2006, the same year Guilfoyle joined Fox News.

After a few high-profile flings (a Scientologist actress who was then on “CSI: Miami”; maybe a 19-year-old; a female staffer who was married to one of his closest advisors), Newsom finally settled down for good before leaving City Hall, proposing to his now-wife, First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom in 2008.

In the years that followed, Newsom and Harris continued to ascend the California political rungs, first as lieutenant governor (Newsom) and state attorney general (Harris), and later as governor and senator.

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Meanwhile, Guilfoyle took a decidedly different path. In 2018, she left her Fox News co-host role, where she had been a strong advocate for Trump, to join his political action committee. She has been dating the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., since 2018 and is considered an integral part of the Trump team.

And as for her politics? She says she’s been a Republican since college. But Newsom’s 2003 campaign manager told my colleagues that during the mayoral race, Guilfoyle voiced political opinions well within the “mainstream of moderate San Francisco politics” — which would firmly be considered liberal elsewhere in the country.

Perhaps she put it most succinctly in a 2018 interview, when she told the Washington Post “I have fully recovered from San Francisco.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Favorable weather conditions gave crews on the front lines of the historic firestorm in Northern California a boost, as officials reported scant overnight growth on two of the largest blazes the state has seen. Although the progress is encouraging, the widespread wildfires continue to take a dramatic toll, and not just in terms of acres burned.

The fatalities among the fires stand at seven, including five who perished as a result of the LNU Lightning Complex fire — three in Napa County and two in Solano County — and one in the CZU Lightning Complex fire burning in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties. A pilot also died in a helicopter crash in Fresno County while on a water-dropping mission for the Hills fire. More than 136,000 people across the state have been evacuated from their homes, officials said Tuesday evening. Los Angeles Times

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L.A. STORIES

A white Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter allegedly struck and tightened a towel around the head of a Black detainee who was handcuffed on an ambulance gurney, causing the man to yell, “I can’t breathe,” according to internal city records reviewed by The Times. The incident occurred about 17 months ago and came to light after recent inquiries by The Times. Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles County continues to see a downward trend in confirmed coronavirus infections, setting the stage for a possible reopening of some elementary schools. Los Angeles Times

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IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER

The latest move by Customs and Border Protection to slow traffic from Mexico into the U.S. has caused major border traffic jams stretching for miles and waits exceeding 10 hours for those crossing at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Los Angeles Times

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

President Trump showcased his executive powers on the political stage Tuesday night, issuing a pardon and overseeing a naturalization ceremony during the second night of a Republican National Convention that featured a norm-busting speech by the country’s top diplomat and a lineup of Trump family members. Los Angeles Times

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First Lady Melania Trump capped the evening with a moving and deeply personal speech from the White House Rose Garden.
(Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images)

California counties are stuck in limbo as they wait for Newsom’s reopening rules: Eight California counties have slowed the spread of the coronavirus but are unable to reopen businesses until Newsom releases guidelines. Los Angeles Times

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

The California emergency alert system experienced some problems as fires raged: Emergency officials are learning once again of the technological shortcomings of localized alert systems. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

A young Black activist’s arrest during a George Floyd protest in San Luis Obispo has sparked a new movement. Tianna Arata, who helped spearhead a rally against racial injustice, says her arrest “seemed like it was to discourage other people from organizing protests in San Luis Obispo.” Los Angeles Times

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This is not the End Times, says a Northern California bible scholar who has the Book of Revelation memorized. “In no way shape or form is this the end. You’ll know when it’s the end.” Good to know. Daily Herald

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: partly sunny, 91. San Diego: sunny, 82. San Francisco: sunny, 69. San Jose: partly sunny, 82. Fresno: sunny, 96. Sacramento: sunny, 93. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Betsy Dodge Tyson:

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For a brief season in the ‘70s there were citrus “wars” between the kids on our street, Vista Miguel Drive, and the kids on Haskell Street in La Cañada Flintridge. Nearly every house had ammo to offer: rotten lemons, limes and kumquats. Plus, a house at the bottom of our street had the best ammo: pomegranates. Broken up, they stained upon contact! Citrus was tossed over the fences, walls and gullies between yards, and sometimes lobbed back. No one was ever hurt, and it created a sense of suburban turf pride that lasted for years.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.


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