When he was in the process of running for Lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom caught a lot of flack for saying he didn't know what the Lieutenant Governor actually did.
"What no one seemed to notice," Newsom said at a recent appearance at the Commonwealth Club of California, "was that I had a huge smile on my face when I said it."
Newsom, who spent a year interning in the office of California Lieutenant Governor Leo McCarthy while an undergraduate at Santa Clara University, knew full well what the position entailedoutside of a few legally mandated tasks like serving on the University of California Board of Regents, it was whatever he wanted it to be.
From the moment he got into the statewide office, it became abundantly clear as to what Newsom's Lieutenant Governorship was going to be about: jobs.
The lightning-rod politician has been pushing his job growth agenda at every opportunity, so when the Coastside Democrats, a Democratic party organization serving the western edge of San Mateo County, invited Newsom to give the keynote speech at their election season kick-off event last week, he took the opportunity to take members of his own party to task about not doing enough to kick-start the state's struggling economymuch to the chagrin of some of the Democratic partisans in the audience who expected him to aim his fire exclusively at Republicans.
Newsom slammed Democrats in Sacramento for missing the opportunity to get a federal patent office in California. Even though California accounted over 30,000 patent applications in 2010, 25 of the national total, there are no patent offices in the entire state.
He also unfavorably compared California's lackluster efforts at luring companies from out of state to the much more aggressive techniques employed by states like Texaswhose Presidential hopeful governor famously sends iPads loaded with promotional information to business around country convincing them to relocate to the Lone Star State.
However, what drew a vocal negative reaction from the crowd was when Newsom dinged President Obama for not pushing a Democratic agenda strongly enough when the his party controlled both the House and and the Senate.
Although Newsom didn't single out Gov. Jerry Brown "he left the distinct impression that [Brown's] jobs plan was no plan," said Bill Huber of Moss Beach, a member of the Coastside Democrats board and one of the few in attendance willing to talk for the record.
Earlier this year, Newsom released a much praised plan to revive the California economy by increasing exports, reinvigorating the state's manufacturing sector, developing green jobs, paring down some regulatory infrastructure and establishing official California trade offices both around the country and internationally.
Shortly thereafter, Brown released his own jobs plan, which primarily focused on changes in the tax code that would close a loophole for out-of-state companies and create tax incentives for companies to hire more workers in-state.
The Lieutenant Governor was initially slated to speak for only 20 minutes, but he ended talking for a full hour and then followed up by taking questions from the audience for another 30 minutes.
"I didn't get into politics to be popular; I'm not going to tell you exactly what you want to hear," Newsom said to the Half Moon Bay Review. "You have every right to be angry at Washington, and you have every reason to be angry at Sacramento."
Update: "Gavin's real point wasn't to pin blame on any specific person, but more to say that we can't rest on our laurels anymore and have to take a more pro-active role in growing the state's economy," said Wend Andary, a Coastside Democrats member who attended the event, who attested that the vast majority of the attendees appreciated Newsom's candor. "There are just some people who expect ideological perfection in any politician and are willing to gripe if they don't get it."
Newsom spokesman Francisco Castillo disputed that there was any booing at all and agreed with Andary that Newsom's comments were more general than singling out any particular politician. "When it comes to the Lieutenant Governor's comments on Sacramento, he started his remarks by saying the problems we have in California come from 30 years of politics in the Capitolnot Jerry Brown," said Castillo. "As for President Obama, during the 75 minutes the Lieutenant Governor spoke, he consistently praised the President and, in fact, said he was a 'transcendent leader' and that we have to be up to the challenge of his leadership for America."