CHARLOTTE, N.C. — California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said early Thursday that he will run for governor in 2014 if Jerry Brown does not seek reelection.
“If Jerry Brown doesn’t run, I have every intention of running. If he does run, I have every intention of supporting him enthusiastically,” Newsom said, adding that there was no indication that Brown does not plan to seek reelection.
He brushed aside questions about whether he would also be interested in a U.S. Senate bid if one of the state’s two Democratic incumbents were to retire. He said his skill set and background fit better with the governorship.
Newsom, speaking to The Times after addressing a California delegation party at the Democratic National Convention, is best known for his legalization of gay marriage when he was San Francisco’s mayor. He said Wednesday’s platform fight about the removal of the word “God” from the party platform was necessary. (The word was reinserted on orders from President Obama, Democrats said, and approved on a questionable voice vote).
“I get it. I thought it was good not to sort of drag this thing out, that if you feel strongly about something, and the president obviously did and his team, that it needed to be fixed,” he said. “I thought it was appropriate to do.”
He said he understood how deleting “God,” coupled with the insertion of a plan supporting gay marriage, “could have been used against the party in a very negative way and an unfair way. Boy, I understand what they were thinking there.”
Newsom was still glowing over former President Bill Clinton’s speech to delegates Wednesday night, saying that Clinton offered a clear, compelling overview of the problems President Obama inherited when he took office and the progress he has made.
“That was one of the great closing arguments that I’ve heard in decades in a political context,” said Newsom, a longtime Clinton loyalist.
Newsom was an early supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 political bid, and when Newsom challenged Brown in the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary, Bill Clinton endorsed Newsom.
“The challenge is, with one exception, there is not a politician that could possibly follow Bill Clinton’s speech — except we have the current president of the United States that can,” he said.
He predicted that Hillary Clinton would run for the Democratic nomination in 2016.
“It’s perfectly timed, right? I imagine she’ll write an extraordinary book, take some time off and come back refreshed,” he said. “I don’t know that she’ll have a choice.”
Newsom has been seen by some as a rising star in the Democratic party, but he was not offered a speaking slot at the Democratic gathering here, a snub that he dismissed.
“No, I’m not sad,” he said. “One thing you realize, it ain’t about you. It’s not about me. So I’m here to support the party, support the president’s reelection, to support the other speakers that all did an outstanding job.”
Those who did speak included potential future rivals, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris. He said it was “great to see other people shine.”
Newsom has spent his time at the convention addressing the California delegation, including at a late-night party here Wednesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, playing pundit on television and mingling with other guests. He seemed most excited by a small dinner Wednesday hosted by Bloomberg and Google with guests such as former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Obama’s former top economic advisor Austan Goolsbee, author Walter Isaacson and others.
“It was fabulous,” he said. “For me, I’m a policy guy, so I’m not the most exciting guy sometimes. So those are the kind of fun things for me.”
When a reporter noted that Newsom provided plenty of fodder for the press, an allusion to his at-times messy personal life, he said, “Well, I do know that. But I want to provide the other things that may bore people more.”