Gavin Christopher Newsom (born October 10, 1967) is an American politician and businessman who is the 40th governor of California, serving since January 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as the 49th lieutenant governor of California from 2011 to 2019 and as the 42nd mayor of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011.
He attended third through fifth grades at Notre Dame des Victoires, where he was placed in remedial reading classes. In high school, Newsom played basketball and baseball and graduated from Redwood High School in 1985. Newsom was a shooting guard in basketball and an outfielder in baseball. His skills placed him on the cover of the Marin Independent Journal.
Newsom attended Santa Clara University on a partial baseball scholarship, where he graduated in 1989 with a B.S. in political science. Newsom was a left-handed pitcher for Santa Clara, but he threw his arm out after two years and has not thrown a baseball since. He lived in the Alameda Apartments, which he later compared to living in a hotel. He later reflected on his education fondly, crediting the Jesuit approach of Santa Clara with helping him become an independent thinker who questions orthodoxy. While in school, Newsom spent a semester studying abroad in Rome.
Newsom and his investors created the company PlumpJack Associates L.P on May 14, 1991. The group started the PlumpJack Winery in 1992 with the financial help of his family friend Gordon Getty. PlumpJack was the name of an opera written by Getty, who invested in 10 of Newsom's 11 businesses. Getty told the San Francisco Chronicle that he treated Newsom like a son and invested in his first business venture because of that relationship. According to Getty, later business investments were because of "the success of the first".
The business grew to an enterprise with more than 700 employees. The PlumpJack Cafe Partners L.P. opened the PlumpJack Café, also on Fillmore Street, in 1993. Between 1993 and 2000, Newsom and his investors opened several other businesses that included the PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn with a PlumpJack Café (1994), a winery in Napa Valley (1995), the Balboa Café Bar and Grill (1995), the PlumpJack Development Fund L.P. (1996), the MatrixFillmore Bar (1998), PlumpJack Wines shop Noe Valley branch (1999), PlumpJackSport retail clothing (2000), and a second Balboa Café at Squaw Valley (2000). Newsom's investments included five restaurants and two retail clothing stores. Newsom's annual income was greater than $429,000 from 1996 to 2001. In 2002, his business holdings were valued at more than $6.9 million. Newsom gave a monthly $50 gift certificate to PlumpJack employees whose business ideas failed, because in his view, "There can be no success without failure."
Newsom's first political experience came when he volunteered for Willie Brown's successful campaign for mayor in 1995. Newsom hosted a private fundraiser at his PlumpJack Café. Brown appointed Newsom to a vacant seat on the Parking and Traffic Commission in 1996, and he was later elected president of the commission. Brown appointed him to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors seat vacated by Kevin Shelley in 1997. At the time he was the youngest member of San Francisco's board of supervisors.
Newsom attended Redwood High School and graduated from Santa Clara University. After graduation, he founded the PlumpJack wine store with family friend Gordon Getty as an investor. The PlumpJack Group grew to manage 23 businesses, including wineries, restaurants and hotels. Newsom began his political career in 1996 when San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown appointed him to serve on the city's Parking and Traffic Commission. Brown appointed Newsom to fill a vacancy on the Board of Supervisors the following year, and Newsom was later elected to the board in 1998, 2000, and 2002.
Newsom was sworn in by his father and pledged to bring his business experience to the board. Brown called Newsom "part of the future generation of leaders of this great city". Newsom described himself as a "social liberal and a fiscal watchdog". He was subsequently elected to a full four-year term to the board in 1998. San Francisco voters chose to abandon at-large elections to the board for the previous district system in 1999. Newsom was re-elected in 2000 and 2002 to represent the second district, which includes Pacific Heights, the Marina, Cow Hollow, Sea Cliff and Laurel Heights, which had the highest income level and the highest Republican registration in San Francisco. Newsom paid $500 to the San Francisco Republican Party to appear on the party's endorsement slate in 2000. He faced no opposition in his 2002 re-election bid.
As a San Francisco Supervisor, Newsom gained public attention for his role in advocating reform of the city's municipal railway (Muni). He was one of two supervisors endorsed by Rescue Muni, a transit riders group, in his 1998 re-election. He sponsored Proposition B to require Muni and other city departments to develop detailed customer service plans. The measure passed with 56.6% of the vote. Newsom sponsored a ballot measure from Rescue Muni; a version of the measure was approved by voters in November 1999.
He gained national attention in 2004 when he directed the San Francisco city–county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in violation of the state law passed in 2000. Implementation of Care Not Cash, the initiative he had sponsored as a supervisor, began on July 1, 2004. As part of the initiative, 5,000 more homeless people were given permanent shelter in the city. About 2,000 people had been placed into permanent housing with support by 2007. Other programs initiated by Newsom to end chronic homelessness included the San Francisco Homeless Outreach Team (SF HOT) and Project Homeless Connect (PHC).
Newsom placed first in the November 4, 2003, general election in a nine-person field. He received 41.9% of the vote to Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez's 19.6% in the first round of balloting, but he faced a closer race in the December 9 run-off when many of the city's progressive groups coalesced around Gonzalez. The race was partisan with attacks against Gonzalez for his support of Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election, and attacks against Newsom for contributing $500 to a Republican slate mailer in 2000 that endorsed issues Newsom supported. Democratic leadership felt that they needed to reinforce San Francisco as a Democratic stronghold after losing the 2000 presidential election and the 2003 gubernatorial recall election to Arnold Schwarzenegger. National figures from the Democratic Party, including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Jesse Jackson, campaigned on Newsom's behalf. Five supervisors endorsed Gonzalez, while Newsom received the endorsement of Willie Brown.
In December 2001, Newsom married Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former San Francisco prosecutor and legal commentator for Court TV, CNN, and MSNBC who later became a prominent personality on Fox News. The couple married at Saint Ignatius Catholic Church on the campus of the University of San Francisco, where Guilfoyle attended law school. The couple appeared in the September 2004 issue of Harper's Bazaar; the spread had them posed at the Getty Villa with the title the "New Kennedys". They jointly filed for divorce in January 2005, citing "difficulties due to their careers on opposite coasts". Their divorce was finalized on February 28, 2006.
In 2003, at the age of 36, Newsom was elected the 42nd Mayor of San Francisco, becoming the city's youngest mayor in a century. Newsom was re-elected in 2007 with 72% of the vote. Newsom was elected Lieutenant Governor of California in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. He was elected Governor of California in the 2018 election.
Newsom's signature achievement as a supervisor was a voter initiative called Care Not Cash (Measure N), which offered care, supportive housing, drug treatment, and help from behavioral health specialists for the homeless in lieu of direct cash aid from the state's general assistance program. Many homeless rights advocates protested against the initiative. "Progressives and Democrats, nuns and priests, homeless advocates and homeless people were furious," according to Newsom. The successfully-passed ballot measure raised his political profile and provided the volunteers, donors, and campaign staff that helped make him a leading contender for the mayorship in 2003. In a city audit conducted four years after the inception of program and released in 2008, the program was evaluated as largely successful.
Newsom gained national attention in 2004 when he directed the San Francisco city–county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in violation of state law. In August 2004, the Supreme Court of California annulled the marriages that Newsom had authorized, as they conflicted with state law. Still, Newsom's unexpected move brought national attention to the issues of same-sex marriage, solidifying political support for Newsom in San Francisco and in the LGBTQ+ community.
Newsom sold his share of his San Francisco businesses when he became mayor in 2004. He maintained his ownership in the PlumpJack companies outside San Francisco that included the PlumpJack Winery in Oakville, California, new PlumpJack-owned Cade Winery in Angwin, California, and the PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn. He is currently the president in absentia of Airelle Wines Inc., which is connected to the PlumpJack Winery in Napa County. Newsom earned between $141,000 and $251,000 in 2007 from his business interests. In February 2006, he paid $2,350,000 for his residence in the Russian Hill neighborhood, which he put on the market in April 2009 for $3,000,000.
Newsom was sworn in as mayor on January 3, 2004. He called for unity among the city's political factions, and promised to address the issues of public schools, potholes and affordable housing. Newsom said he was "a different kind of leader" who "isn't afraid to solve even the toughest problems".
During a strike by hotel workers against a dozen San Francisco hotels, Newsom joined UNITE HERE union members on a picket line in front of the Westin St. Francis Hotel on October 27, 2004. He vowed that the city would boycott the hotels by not sponsoring city events at them until they agreed to a contract with workers. The contract dispute was settled in September 2006.
In 2005, Newsom pushed for a state law to allow communities in California to create policy restricting certain breeds of dogs.
Newsom began dating film director Jennifer Siebel in September 2006. He announced he would seek treatment for alcohol abuse in February 2007. The couple announced their engagement in December 2007, and they were married in Stevensville, Montana, in July 2008. Siebel gave birth to a girl, Montana Tessa Newsom, in September 2009. She gave birth to a son, Hunter Siebel Newsom, on June 12, 2011, their daughter Brooklynn on July 3, 2013, and on February 26, 2016, the Newsoms announced the birth of a second son, Dutch.
He signed the law establishing Healthy San Francisco in 2007 to provide city residents with universal health care.
In January 2007, it was revealed that Newsom had a romantic relationship in mid-2005 with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, the wife of his then-campaign manager and former deputy chief of staff, Alex Tourk. Tourk filed for divorce shortly after the revelation and left Newsom's campaign and administration.
The San Francisco Chronicle declared in August 2007 that Newsom faced no "serious threat to his re-election bid", having raised $1.6 million for his re-election campaign by early August. He won re-election on November 6, 2007 with over 72% of the vote. Upon taking office for a second term, Newsom promised to focus on the environment, homelessness, health care, education, housing, and rebuilding San Francisco General Hospital.
When the August 10, 2007, filing deadline passed, the discussion around San Francisco shifted to talk about Newsom's second term. He was challenged in the election by 13 candidates that included George Davis, a nudist activist, and Michael Powers, owner of the Power Exchange sex club. Conservative former supervisor Tony Hall withdrew by early September due to lack of support.
Newsom was baptized and raised in his father's Catholic faith. He describes himself as an "Irish Catholic rebel [...] in some respects, but one that still has tremendous admiration for the Church and very strong faith". When asked about the current state of the Catholic Church in 2008, he said the church was in crisis. He said he stays with the Church because of his "strong connection to a greater purpose, and [...] higher being [...]" Newsom identifies himself as a practicing Catholic, stating that he has a "strong sense of faith that is perennial: day in and day out". He is the godfather of designer and model Nats Getty.
The same year, Newsom received the Leadership for Healthy Communities Award, along with Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and three other public officials, for his commitment to making healthful food and physical activity options more accessible to children and families. He hosted the Urban Rural Roundtable in 2008 to explore ways to promote regional food development and increased access to healthy, affordable food. Newsom secured $8 million in federal and local funds for the Better Streets program, which ensures that public health perspectives are fully integrated into urban planning processes. He signed a menu-labeling bill into law, requiring that chain restaurants print nutrition information on their menus.
Newsom came under attack from the San Francisco Democratic Party in 2009 for his failure to implement the City of San Francisco's sanctuary city rule, under which the city was to not assist U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In April 2009, Newsom announced his intention to run for Governor of California in the 2010 election. He received the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton in September 2009. During the campaign, Newsom remarked that, if elected, he would like to be known as "The Gavinator" (a reference to the nickname of incumbent Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, "The Governator"). Throughout the campaign, however, Newsom suffered low poll numbers, trailing Democratic frontrunner Jerry Brown by more than 20 points in most polls. Newsom dropped out of the gubernatorial race in October 2009.
Newsom was named "America's Most Social Mayor" in 2010 by Samepoint, based on analysis of the social media profiles of mayors from the 100 largest cities in the United States.
Newsom filed initial paperwork to run for lieutenant governor in February 2010, and officially announced his candidacy in March. He received the Democratic nomination in June and won the election on November 2, 2010. Newsom was sworn in as lieutenant governor on January 10, 2011. The one-week delay was to ensure that a successor as mayor of San Francisco was chosen before he left office. Edwin M. Lee, the city administrator, took office the day after Newsom was sworn in as lieutenant governor. He debuted on Current TV as the host of The Gavin Newsom Show in May 2012. That same month, Newsom drew criticism for negative comments about Sacramento, referring to the state capital as "dull" and commenting that he was only there once a week, saying "there's no reason" to be there otherwise.
Newsom and his family moved from San Francisco to a house they bought in Kentfield in Marin County in 2012.
Newsom supported a failed measure in 2012 that sought to end capital punishment in California. He claimed the initiative would save California millions of dollars, citing statistics that California had spent $5 billion since 1978 to execute just 13 people.
In July 2015, Newsom released the final report of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, which he had convened with the American Civil Liberties Union of California in 2013. The report's recommendations to regulate marijuana were intended to inform a legalization measure on the November 2016 ballot. Newsom supported the resulting measure, Proposition 64, which legalized cannabis use and cultivation for California state residents who are 21 or older.
Newsom released his first book, Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government, on February 7, 2013. The book discusses the Gov 2.0 movement that is taking place across the United States. Following its release, Newsom began to work with the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society at the University of California, Berkeley, on the California Report Card (CRC). The CRC is a mobile-optimized platform that allows state residents to "grade" their state on six timely issues. The CRC exemplifies ideas presented in Newsom's Citizenville, encouraging direct public involvement in government affairs via technology.
In 2014, Newsom was the only statewide politician to endorse California Proposition 47, a piece of legislation that recategorized certain non-violent offenses like drug and property crimes as misdemeanors as opposed to felonies. The measure was passed by voters in the state of California on November 4, 2014.
Newsom was re-elected as Lieutenant Governor of California on November 4, 2014, defeating Republican Ron Nehring with 57.2% of the vote. His second term began on January 5, 2015.
In 2015, Newsom partnered with the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy at California Polytechnic State University to launch Digital Democracy, an online tool that uses facial and voice recognition to enable users to navigate California legislative proceedings.
On February 11, 2015, Newsom announced that he was opening a campaign account for governor in the 2018 elections, allowing him to raise funds for a campaign to succeed Jerry Brown as Governor of California. On June 5, 2018, he finished in the top two of the nonpartisan blanket primary, and defeated Republican John H. Cox by a landslide in the gubernatorial election on November 6.
Newsom joined then-Long Beach City College Superintendent Eloy Oakley in a November 2015 op-ed calling for the creation of the California College Promise, which would create partnerships between public schools, public universities, and employers and offer a free community college education. Throughout 2016, he joined Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf at the launch of the Oakland Promise and then-Second Lady Jill Biden and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti at the launch of the LA Promise. In June 2016, the Lieutenant Governor helped secure $15 million in the state budget to support the creation of promise programs throughout the state.
In December 2015, Newsom called on the University of California to reclassify computer science courses as a core academic class in order to incentivize more high schools to offer computer science curriculum. He sponsored successful legislation signed by Governor Brown in September 2016, that began the planning process for expanding computer science education to all state students, beginning as early as kindergarten.
As lieutenant governor in 2016, he was the official proponent of Proposition 63. The ballot measure required a background check and California Department of Justice authorization to purchase ammunition among other gun control regulations. In response to the 2019 mass shooting in Virginia Beach, he called for nationwide background checks on people purchasing ammunition. Later that year, he responded to the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting with, "Tonight, CA stands with the Gilroy community." "Grateful for the law enforcement's efforts and their continues work as this situation develops." He visited with survivors and the families of victims. While stating his support for the 2nd Amendment, he said he would like national cooperation controlling "weapons of goddamned mass destruction". He also commented that “These shootings overwhelmingly, almost exclusively, are males, boys, ‘men’ — I put in loose quotes, I do think that is missing in the national conversation.”
In 2016, the Lieutenant Governor passed a series of reforms at the University of California to provide student-athletes with additional academic and injury-related support, and to ensure that contracts for athletic directors and coaches emphasized academic progress. This came in response to several athletics programs, including the University of California – Berkeley's football team, which garnered the lowest graduation rates in the country.
Newsom also supported failed Proposition 62 in 2016, which also would have repealed the death penalty in California. He argued that Prop 62 would get rid of a system "that is administered with troubling racial disparities". He also stated that the death penalty was fundamentally immoral and did not deter crime.
In response to pro-enforcement statements made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Newsom sent a letter on February 24, 2017, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump, urging them not to increase federal enforcement against recreational cannabis firms opening in California. He wrote, "The government must not strip the legal and publicly supported industry of its business and hand it back to drug cartels and criminals ... Dealers don't card kids. I urge you and your administration to work in partnership with California and the other eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana for adult use in a way that will let us enforce our state laws that protect the public and our children while targeting the bad actors." Newsom responded to comments by Spicer which compared cannabis to opioids saying, "Unlike marijuana, opioids represent an addictive and harmful substance, and I would welcome your administration's focused efforts on tackling this particular public health crisis."
Newsom vetoed SB 1 in September 2019 which would have preserved environmental protections, of which the Trump administration were set to roll back by the government's relinquishment of endangered species protections. The Newsom administration intends to sue federal agencies over the rollbacks to protect imperiled fish in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta in 2019.
A poll found that California voters thought the most important issue for the governor and state Legislature to work on in 2020 was homelessness. In his first week of office, Newsom threatened to withhold state funding for infrastructure to communities that failed to take actions to alleviate California's housing shortage. In late January 2019, he announced that he would sue Huntington Beach for preventing the construction of affordable housing. A year later, the city acted to settle the lawsuit by the state. Newsom has been characterized as an opponent of NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) sentiment.
Newsom was sworn in on January 7, 2019.
In his February 2019 State of the State address, Newsom announced that, while work would continue on the 171-mile (275 km) Central Valley segment from Bakersfield to Merced, the rest of the system would be indefinitely postponed, citing cost overruns and delays. This and other actions created tension with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, a labor union representing 450,000 members.
On March 13, 2019, Newsom declared a moratorium on the state's death penalty, preventing any execution in the state as long as he remained governor. The move also led to the withdrawal of the state's current lethal injection protocol and the closure of the execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison. In a CBS This Morning interview, Newsom said that the death penalty is "a racist system ... that is perpetuating inequality. It's a system that I cannot in good conscience support." The moratorium grants a temporary reprieve for all of the 737 inmates on California's death row, which is the largest death row in the Western Hemisphere.
In response to the Trump administration's crackdown on immigrants with criminal records, he has given heightened consideration to people in this situation. A pardon can eliminate the grounds for deportation of immigrants who are legal permanent residents. Pardon requests from people facing deportation are provided with an expedited review by the state Board of Parole Hearings per a 2018 California law. In his first acts of clemency as Governor, he pardoned seven formerly incarcerated people in May 2019, including two Cambodian refugees facing deportation. He pardoned three men who were attempting to avoid being deported to Cambodia or Vietnam in November 2019. They had separately committed crimes when they were each 19 years old. He granted parole to a Cambodian refugee in December 2019 who had been held in a California prison due to a murder case. Although immigrant rights groups wanted Newsom to end policies allowing the transfer to federal agents, he was turned over for possible deportation upon release.
In a speech before representatives of Native Americans in June 2019, Newsom apologized for the genocide of Native Americans approved and abetted by the California state government upon statehood in the late 19th century. By one estimate, at least 4,500 Californian Indians were killed between 1849 and 1870. Newsom said, "That's what it was, a genocide. No other way to describe it. And that's the way it needs to be described in the history books."
Reducing the cost of healthcare and increasing access in California were priorities he campaigned on. He also supported creating a universal healthcare system in California. The budget passed in June 2019 addressed these priorities by expanding eligibility for Medi-Cal to undocumented youth ages 19 to 25. The state's health program for the poor already includes eligibility for those 18 and younger but California will become the first state to expand eligibility to undocumented young adults. Seniors who live in the state without legal immigration status may also be allowed to enroll, either by inclusion in the state budget or with Newsom's signature on legislation.
Newsom pledged during his campaign to tighten state oversight of fracking and oil extraction. He imposed a moratorium in November 2019 on approval of new hydraulic fracturing and steam-injected oil drilling in the state until the permits for those projects can be reviewed by an independent panel of scientists.
Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4, 2020, after the first death in California attributable to coronavirus disease (COVID-19). His stated intention was to help California prepare for and contain the spread of the COVID-19. The emergency declaration allowed state agencies to more easily procure equipment and services, share information on patients and alleviated restrictions on the use of state-owned properties and facilities. Newsom also announced that mitigation policies for the state's estimated 108,000 unsheltered homeless people would be prioritized with a significant push to move them indoors.
Due to a mass die-off of trees throughout the state which potentially could increase the risk of wildfires, Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 22, 2020, in preparation for the 2020 wildfire season. After declaring a state of emergency on August 18, Newsom reported that the state was battling 367 known fires, many sparked by intense thunderstorms on August 16–17. His request for a federal disaster declaration for six major wildfires was rejected.
Several minor recall attempts were launched against Newsom early in his tenure, though they failed to gain much traction. In June 2020, another recall effort was launched against Newsom, mainly for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was initially given a signature deadline of November 17, but it was extended to March 17, 2021, after a ruling by Judge James P. Arguelles. The petition received the support of California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Milan Patterson and former Mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer. Newsom's 2018 challenger, John H. Cox, donated $50,000 to the recall campaign. In January 2021, the number of signatures for the Recall Campaign reached one million. It needs 1,495,709 valid signatures before March 17, 2021 to be on the ballot. The proponents' goal is to get 2 million signatures.
He attended the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit where he spoke of California as a climate leader due to the actions of Republicans and Democrats who held the office before him. In August 2020, Gavin Newsom addressed the 2020 Democratic National Convention. His speech made mentions of climate change and the wildfires prevalent in California at the time. On September 23, 2020, Newsom signed an executive order to phase out sales of gasoline-powered vehicles and require all new passenger vehicles sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035. Bills he signed in September with an environmental theme included a commission to study lithium extraction around the Salton Sea.
In December, the Los Angeles Times reported that Newsom's administration had mismanaged an unknown amount of unemployment funds by disbursing benefits to ineligible claimants, especially those filed through the federally-funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. If 10% (the usual unemployment fraud rate) of state and federal benefits paid between March and September 2020 were fraudulent, the fraud would total $9.8 billion. After this discovery, from October 2020 to January 11, 2021, newly-instated fraud experts rejected 30% of all claims filed and 40% of all PUA claims. State district attorneys said Newsom and Attorney General Xavier Becerra did not do enough to help prosecutors identify fraudulent claims. Experts said much of the fraud appeared to originate from international criminal gangs in 20 different countries.
In September 2020, Newsom signed into law a bill allowing California transgender inmates to be placed in prisons that respect their gender.
Following California Senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris' win alongside presidential nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, Newsom was tasked with appointing her replacement. Newsom faced pressure to appoint a Hispanic or an African-American woman to be her successor, with potential candidates including Mayor of Long Beach Robert Garcia, labor activist Dolores Huerta, Secretary of State of California Alex Padilla, and U.S. Congresswomen Karen Bass and Barbara Lee, Attorney General of California Xavier Becerra. On December 22, 2020, Newsom appointed Padilla to fill the seat. He will be the first Latino to represent California in the U.S. Senate.