When Gavin Newsom famously quipped on the campaign trail that he didn't, for the life of him, know what the Lieutenant Governor of California actually does, he wasn't exactly being serious--the lightning-rod former San Francisco Mayor interned in the Lt. Gov's office when he was a college student at Santa Clara University.
He knew exactly what the job entailed and, after coming up short in a bruising primary fight against once and future Governor Jerry Brown, it was one he actively sought.
Now that he's been California's number two executive for over a year, Newsom seems to have changed his tune regarding the office.
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board, Newsom advocated for the elimination of the position unless future Lt. Governors are elected as part of a single ticket with the Governor.
The former San Francisco mayor-- the acting governor of California for five days with Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in Washington DC--said that many other states, including Texas, Maryland and New York, have such a system, which he said is more "effective and empowering" for both offices.
Otherwise, "we're at each other's throats, nothing gets done...it's just trivial stuff. If they run together, then they have a team," he said. "Otherwise, get rid of the position."
Newom, who went out of his way to praise Brown during the interview, noted that electing each office separately has created friction in past administrations--most notably between Brown, during his 1970s governorship, and Republican Lt. Governor Mike Curb. Curb vetoed legislation, issued executive orders and made appointments contrary to Brown's wishes while the Governor was out of state campaigning on his ultimately unsuccessful presidential run.
Newsom himself has had a rocky relationship with Brown. He recently slammed the Governor's higher education policy in an interview on KQED's Forum:
When asked by host Michael Krasny if he was disappointed with Brown's higher education policy, which included billions of dollars in funding cuts in order to help balance the state budget last year, Newsom responded, "it's hard not to be."
"Higher education is the reason this economy has succeeded over the last half-century plus," he continued. "We are losing that key advantage. You've doubled tuition since 2007, you've tripled it since 2001, you're pricing out the middle class. This is a serious code-red crisis."
The office of the Lt. Governor has a number of responsibilities widely considered to be fairly limited in scope. The Lt. Governor takes on the acting powers of the governorship when the Governor is out of state or otherwise incapacitated, serves as the president of the California State Senate, sits on the University of California Board of Reagents, the California State University Board of Trustees and a number of other of boards and commissions including the Commission for Economic Development.
This last position has occupied the majority of Newsom's energy since taking office. The Lt. Governor has consistently pounded the jobs drum-beat, releasing a widely-praised jobs roadmap that called for a focus on increasing exports, reinvigorating the state's manufacturing sector, developing green jobs, establishing official state trade offices in foreign countries (particularly in Asia) and streamlining some of the state's regulatory practices to make them less onerous on businesses.
Additionally, Newsom has made it his personal mission to get a federal patent office located in California, noting at an event at the Commonwealth Club last year that even though California accounted over 30,000 patent applications in 2010, 25 of the national total, there are no such offices in the entire state.
Newsom has also been keeping busy by re-involving himself with the PlumpJack wine/restaurant empire he built before getting bitten by the political bug, relocating his growing brood back to his childhood home of Marin County and donating money to Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert's SuperPAC.
Check out an interview with Newsom below: