Since Beyond Chron reported on July 5 that Mayor Newsom's backers were exploring the Governor's race, other media have confirmed our account. As Newsom allies quietly seek to line up the necessary financial backing, there have been reports of new potential candidates, particularly Southern California Congressmember Linda Sanchez. This talk of Sanchez confirms that key Democratic constituencies question current front-runner Phil Angelides electability, and that Newsom remains the Party's strongest candidate. Recent developments have further increased the likelihood that Newsom will enter the race.
In his August 10 column, Examiner columnist P.J. Corkery joined those promoting Congressmember Linda Sanchez's candidacy for Governor. Noting that "The Gav's people deny he's running but those prognosticating for heavy contributors down in the (Silicon) Valley say otherwise,Corkery nevertheless observed that Sanchez "could win easily in a crowded primary.
Not quite. While rising Latino political power will soon dominate California politics, Sanchez would be a weaker Governor's candidate than Angelides and lacks the financial resources, statewide name recognition, and star power of Gavin Newsom.
Linda Sanchez's sister and fellow Congressmember, Loretta Sanchez, became a national folk hero in 1996 when she defeated controversial right-wing incumbent Republican Bob "B1 Bomber Dornan to win her seat. Loretta Sanchez paved the way for the rise of Latino political power in Orange County and throughout Southern California.
Linda Sanchez has a bright political future, but she is in only her second term of Congress and has no prior experience in elected office. Sanchez is little known across California, lacks a strong funding base, and is unlikely to risk her safe Congressional seat for a Governor's race she cannot win.
The "talk" about a Linda Sanchez candidacy is likely designed to put her on the map for Barbara Boxer's Senate seat in 2010. While that's five years away, that is the earliest opportunity after 2006 for rising Democrats to get a shot at the state's elite offices. With Fabian Nunez and Antonio Villaraigosa already being touted for statewide office, it is not surprising that a progressive woman who is a union-member would be an attractive addition to the top tier candidate pool.
Sanchez's emergence in state political gossip increases the likelihood that Gavin Newsom enters the 2006 Governor's race. Unless Villaraigosa fails as Los Angeles Mayor (and he's gotten great reviews so far), he, Nunez and Sanchez would all be favorites against Newsom in either a Senate or Governor's primary in 2010.
It sounds crazy to suggest that the young Newsom could see his ambitions stymied if he does not make his move in 2006, but this is the current political reality.
Since my June 5 analysis touting Newsom's chances, outside forces have made his prospects even brighter.
First, Governor Schwarzengger's poll numbers have continued to decline. His integrity was undermined by his secret Muscle magazine deal, he bears responsibility for using public funds to create fake "news" (as evidenced by the San Jose pothole fiasco), and last Friday the Los Angeles Times had a front-page story implying that media interests aligned with the Governor helped his recall campaign by purchasing (and suppressing) the stories of two women claiming to have had affairs with Arnold.
As was once said about Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger is increasingly perceived as a walking conflict of interest.
As the Governor's Teflon dissolves, so has public confidence in his competence.
He is in the midst of a political freefall even prior to the potentially even more damaging November special election.
Newsom's prospects have also improved because his biggest statewide political liability----his willingness to break state law in allowing gay marriages---has been mitigated by two external developments: the Roberts Supreme Court confirmation process and the infighting among anti-marriage groups.
Revelations that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts provided pro bono legal advise to a gay rights group did little to reduce his support among conservative groups. If most of the religious right is willing to accept a Supreme Court justice who is likely to side with gay rights, then there may be a lot fewer California voters then people think who would vote against Newsom solely for his gay marriage stand.
In addition, the fact that there are two anti-gay marriage initiative drives circulating for the June 2006 ballot shows that California's anti-marriage forces may be in disarray. Based on past experience with competing health care and campaign financing measures, many gay marriage opponents will vote against the initiative they like least, rather than voting for both and letting the leading vote-getter take effect.
This could well result in a defeat for both measures, and have gay-marriage opponents blaming each other next fall rather than uniting to defeat Gavin Newsom.
The third factor increasing Newsom's chances is the growing confidence among key Democratic constituencies that they can regain the Governor's office.
One reason Phil Angelides and Steve Westly are the only declared Democratic Governor candidates is that Arnold has long been seen as unbeatable. Now that he's vulnerable, labor and other key constituency groups are looking for a candidate who can win, and that person is not currently holding state office.
Notwithstanding his fifteen minutes on a picket line, Newsom would hardly be organized labor's first choice for the Democratic nomination. But now that labor can smell potential victory, its priority will be to nominate a candidate who can win.
Newsom is that candidate. He will have a level of labor backing in November 2006 that he would never have in a future primary race.
If Newsom does not commit to running by early December, count on labor and other key Democratic constituencies to entice another new face into the field. But the race is Newsom's if he wants it, and the logic of politics says he does.
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