I moved to California in 1995. Within a few months, I was versed in some of the problems in the state, such as homelessness in Berkeley, tight budgets in the University of California system, and soaring real estate prices vs. rent control problems.
One day, I was driving across the Bay Bridge listening to some talk radio show and I heard a man talking about some of the serious issues in the city of San Francisco. I had no idea who he was, but it was noted on the show that he was the youngest member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. I liked his energy and common sense. He had a way with words, and I thought he was the freshest political voice I'd ever heard. I hoped he would continue fighting for the City of San Francisco. I kept listening and I found out his name: Gavin Newsom.
That day, I began a journal of policy ideas and inspiration, and I wrote his name in my journal along with my thoughts from the radio show. I kept him in mind as I continued studying issues of politics and technology. I graduated and became entrenched in the start-up world, and one day I saw him speak at a Glasshouse for Startups small group event in SF. He was talking about his experience growing the Plumpjack business, and he alluded to his possible run for mayor. I shook his hand, knowing I was shaking the hand of the future mayor because I believed his talent and charisma and his knack for actually finding useful solutions both on the business and the municipal level was significant.
I dove into working on new media for political campaigns on national and local campaigns, and during that time, Gavin Newsom was elected Mayor of San Francisco. Every so often, I would attend an event where I would see him talking to people, graciously listening to their concerns. We heard about his own personal problems, but somehow I knew he would rally. His popularity was soaring - the people of San Francisco loved him. When he announced his run for Governor, I think I was the fifth person to sign onto his Facebook page the first day it was setup, and I enjoyed watching it grow to over 59,000 supporters - even in the wake of Jerry Brown's candidacy.
Now I want to make one thing clear: Gavin Newsom could have been a safe politician, a career California Democrat like many others, not rocking the boat, just toeing the party line. He could have used his charisma and smarts to take the cautious road politically and follow the party line, moving up the ranks the way many others have, making small enough changes to get pats on the back and applause from the sidelines. But I believe he would not have been satisfied with that life. Instead he dared to dream. He's a man who has seen poverty, he's watched couples cry with joy when becoming married after being barred from it for several decades, and he's had his own struggles and triumphs within the education system in California.
Newsom's someone who's not afraid to roll up his sleeves and do real work. In the early days of his Plumpjack restaurant while Newsom was on the Board of Supervisors, I heard that he would sweep the sidewalk in front of the restaurant himself because it allowed him to stay involved. It's not that I haven't heard worthwhile criticisms of his work as mayor. We all have our flaws. But he continued to listen to the people in the community and register their concerns. He continued working hard for the city. And for a man to admit that it's tough to run a race for the state's Chief Executive due to his responsibilities both at home and in his current office - I believe that is daring, too, even in the face of an uphill fund raising battle.
So while I'm saddened he will not be continuing his run for Governor of California at this time, I feel lucky we still have Mayor Newsom in San Francisco to continue fighting the good fight, and I have no doubt he will run again for another statewide or national office when the time is right. He is a rare individual who could have provided the vision the State of California needed to pull out of a troubled recent past, and perhaps in the future he will still play that role or another of great importance. And for the national pundits who might use this as an opportunity to count him out, take heed: there's always a Comeback Kid.