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Gavin Newsom and Meg Whitman Should Hope to Face Each Other

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I know it's early to be handicapping the California gubernatorial race, but the way I see it, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom should be rooting for former eBay CEO Meg Whitman to receive the Republican nomination; and Whitman should do likewise for Newsom in the Democratic primary.

This would allow both candidates to be viable because they would cancel out each others' respective faux pas.

Whitman's hurdle is her well-publicized nonvoting record. According to published reports, the 53-year-old Whitman did not cast a vote until she was 46.

At the very least, Whitman's nonvoting record does suggest a strong disinterest in the most fundamental expression of living in a democratic society.

Whitman failed to cast a vote in the 2003 recall election of Gray Davis. Not even the rarity of a highly publicized statewide election that promised high voter turnout, as did the 2003 election, which swept Arnold Schwarzenegger into office, could sway Whitman's self-governing impulses.

Voting is a right that, when denied, Americans have been willing to die for, yet Whitman exercised her privilege not to be bothered with such menial tasks.

With a seemingly lukewarm relationship with democracy, Whitman wants Californians to give her the keys to the eighth largest economy in the world. Why, because she ran eBay?

For decades, Whitman voluntarily acquiesced her political voice, reducing her candidacy to an unhealthy example of political ambition and arrogance, while openly lacking appreciation for something so basic to sustaining of our republic.

How can Whitman present herself as a reform candidate when her failure to vote reflects tacit approval for many of the issues she advocates to change if elected?

But if Republicans feel Whitman is their best choice, the Democrats have Newsom lurking as Whitman's potential Prince Valiant.

While Newsom deserves credit for courageously putting the issue of same-gender marriage on the table for California voters to consider, he was probably one of the key reasons Proposition 8 was victorious.

The pro-Prop. 8 commercials, which not surprisingly took Newsom's words out of context, do accurately illustrate an elected official appearing to gloat.

Newsom's "The door is wide open now. It's going to happen, whether you like it or not" comments led some observers to conclude that the polls shifted in favor of Prop. 8 once the commercials began airing the mayor's statements.

A more subdued Newsom would have not placed himself in the unenviable position of being an unwitting ally for the opposition. When is the humility lesson taught in "Being an Elected Official 101?" Day one or day two?

The other area of concern is Newsom's affair with the wife of his deputy chief of staff. I am hardly a prude on such matters. I have knowingly cast my vote for candidates who have been guilty of extramarital affairs.

Voters may very well conclude my raising this issue falls into the realm of Newsom's private life that has no place in the public conversation. But the issue here is not one of sex but rather an undeniable recklessness.

To paraphrase George Gershwin, Newsom is rich and good looking; he could have had his pick from a plethora of eligible women in San Francisco, but instead chose the wife of someone who had committed his life to furthering Newsom's political ambitions.

Irresponsible behavior mixed with political ambition seldom makes for a concoction that serves the people well.

Neither is a deal breaker, but the infractions of Whitman and Newsom are so fundamental in nature that they challenge the very rationale for their candidacy. Words that come to mind are arrogance, selfish, self-centered -- none are exactly complimentary, especially for someone seeking the most powerful elected office in the country outside of president of the United States.

Perhaps it is possible to lead California, while spending the majority of your adult life unconcerned with your civic responsibility, opting instead to be a member of the Apathetic Party.

Likewise, we'll see if it is possible to be an elected official who gloats on camera and engages in extramarital affairs with spouses of individuals committed to helping one's cause and not pay a political price in the process. A lot can happen between now and June 2010, but Whitman and Newsom may once again prove the axiom that politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows.

Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist and blog-talk radio host. He is the author of Strip Mall Patriotism: Moral Reflections of the Iraq War. E-mail him at byron@byronspeaks.com or visit his Web site: byronspeaks.com