Gavin Newsom's Biography

Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco since 2004, is a former candidate for the Democratic nomination for California Governor. Newsom, a former entrepreneur, started his public life as a political appointee by then-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. Since that time Newsom has become a mayor with a national profile.

High-visibility, controversial city campaigns (such as “Care Not Cash” for the homeless and his support for same-sex marriage), as well as a turbulent personal life, have made him one of the most recognizable mayors in California if not the nation.

Newsom, 41, began his political career in 1996 when San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown appointed him to the San Francisco Parking and Traffic Commission. The following year, Brown appointed Newsom to replace then-Supervisor Kevin Shelley (who had been elected to the state Assembly) in what was then an at-large supervisorial seat. Newsom was re-elected as supervisor in 1998 and, after San Francisco approved district elections for city/county supervisors, again in 2000 and 2002 in the newly created Supervisorial District 2.

In his successful campaign for San Francisco mayor in 2003, Newsom cast himself as a centrist in the mold of former mayor and sitting Senator Dianne Feinstein. In the primary, Newsom captured 41.9% of the vote. His eventual general election opponent, Supervisor Matt Gonzalez (of the Green Party) received 19.6% of the vote in second place; progressive voters were split between Gonzalez and several other candidates.

In the December runoff, the city’s more liberal groups (including the Sierra Club, the SF Bicycle Coalition, and the Tenants’ Union) coalesced around Gonzalez, while Newsom enjoyed support from a wide variety of high-profile Democrats, including Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Senator Feinstein, Mayor Brown, and national leaders such as Vice-President Al Gore and President Bill Clinton.

The son of retired state appeals court justice William Newsom and a fourth-generation San Franciscan, Gavin Newsom comes from a politically well-connected family. Prior to his political career, Newsom was an entrepreneur and had a successful group of restaurant, hotel, and wine businesses. Former President Clinton recently endorsed Newsom’s gubernatorial bid. Pull quote: "I'm not a poster child for playing along, for playing it safe. Now more than ever, we need more courage among our politicians." – Mayor Gavin Newsom, town hall in Santa Ana, August 11, 2009