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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hey, Gavin: List of Upwardly Mobile Lieutenant Governors Is Truly Brief

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 at 1:45 PM

Gavin Newsom might stop applauding if he better knew the career outcomes of previous lieutenant governors -- and failed candidates for the office - BRAINCHILDVN
  • Brainchildvn
  • Gavin Newsom might stop applauding if he better knew the career outcomes of previous lieutenant governors -- and failed candidates for the office
UPDATE: Newsom insists he's not making any statements about running for lieutenant governor. At least not now.

First things first, our calls to Gavin Newsom's political svengali, Ace Smith, have not yet been returned. We are, however, reading that any potential Newsom announcement regarding a run for lieutenant governor isn't coming today -- like Godot, maybe he'll come tomorrow.

Well, good thing. That gives us the time to reflect on all the truly great, consequential and -- most important for Newsom's purposes -- upwardly mobile lieutenant governors this state has had.

Well, that didn't take very long.

John Garamendi swiped up Ellen Taucher's Congressional seat last year and Gray Davis -- remember him? -- managed to become one of this state's most ignominious governors. And that's really about it; I could list all the other state Lt. Govs we've had since the '50s, but only one in 100 people could discern it from the roster of the 1974 San Francisco 49ers. Some of you may recall how Davis' campaign commercials for governor lauded him as "the best lieutenant governor" this state has ever had. That was amusing then; considering how things went for Davis it's now hilarious. By the way, even local boy made good Leo McCarthy -- whose resume and statewide connections would appear to dwarf Newsom's -- never managed to get past the Lt. Gov rung on the ladder. 

Anyhow, it's granted that Newsom and his people realize that Lt. Gov is not a career trampoline. The job's amorphous and little-monitored duties offer someone like Newsom ample opportunity to stay on center stage, make speeches, and face little to no public scrutiny for whatever the hell the Lt. Gov does or does not do. If nothing else, it'd be a chance to fly in circles until a runway opens up via a Congressional race, a Senatorial spot, or a plum position with L'Oreal.

And yet, there's another question to ask: Since potential opponent Janice Hahn is the scion of a well-known Los Angeles family -- and there are more votes down there than there are up here -- and since she's got Garry South calling the shots, a Newsom victory would be no cakewalk. 

If lieutenant governor is, more often than not, a career-killer for politicians -- what happens to folks who don't even make it and lose out in the primaries?

You'd think that'd be the ultimate political kiss of death: Finishing in second place for the second-place job. And, usually, it is. But, then again, the candidate beaten out by Garamendi in 2006 was none other than Jackie Speier -- currently a Congresswoman, following Rep. Tom Lantos' death.

Other than that, however, it's hard to find Democratic also-rans well known ouside their immediate family: Liz Figueroa came third to Garamendi and Speier last time 'round, but she isn't unemployed. In fact, she was appointed to the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. To put it mildly, this doesn't seem to be the sort of political outcome Newsom is aspiring for.

In 2002, Cruz Bustamante beat out a man named Ronald J. Like -- and Like got, like, exactly, 543 votes. The also-ran in 1998? Tony Miller. Yes, that Tony Miller. And in '94 -- a guy named Philip R. Ashmallah. And in 1990? That'd be Danny Abramowicz. Actually, just kidding there -- but he did play for the '74 Niners.   

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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