SAN FRANCISCO -- Gavin Newsom, 36, a fourth-generation San Franciscan who has just become this city's youngest mayor in a century, is, of course, a Democrat. He also is tall, dark and handsome and a self-made millionaire from restaurant and wine businesses, whose wife is described as a prosecutor, television legal analyst and "former lingerie model." Newsom barely won, even though he was endorsed by Democratic luminaries Bill Clinton, Al Gore and most of the presidential aspirants. But he was not endorsed by Howard Dean, which may say something about the limits of impulsive liberalism.
Newsom and his opponent, Matt Gonzalez, were on the 11-member Board of Supervisors, only two of whom supported Newsom. Gonzalez, the Green Party candidate, ran an Internet-driven campaign and spent one-tenth as much as Newsom but got 47 percent of the vote. Gonzalez received 10,000 more votes than Newsom on Election Day but lost when the absentee ballots were counted. San Franciscans had endured three elections in 64 days -- the gubernatorial recall (the city voted 80 percent against recalling Gray Davis), the first mayoral election, then the Newsom-Gonzalez runoff -- which may have dampened the enthusiasm of all but political enthusiasts, who in this city are to the left of the salad fork.
Gonzalez, who once played in a punk rock band, portrayed Newsom as a protege of outgoing -- in several senses -- Mayor Willie Brown, which is true. And as a child of privilege, which is nonsense. Newsom was raised by a single mother who worked two jobs. Although Gonzalez wants it known that he sleeps on a futon in an apartment he shares with three other ascetics, he refused to release his tax returns.
This city has, well, distinctive demographics. Reversing the national average, there are twice as many renters (65 percent) as homeowners. Renters, responding to the severe housing shortage that is predictably exacerbated by rent control, predictably demand more controls. They say rent control is a "diversity" measure, preventing the city from being swamped by people willing to pay the market price of housing.
Seventy percent of adults here are single. The city evidently has more dogs than children, and Newsom says the endorsement of a dog -- well, dog owners -- political action committee is much coveted. But strike the word "owners." Gonzalez was the author of the ordinance stipulating that pets will also have "guardians." Can you be arrested for saying just "owner"? Newsom languidly says, "You don't get arrested for much else out here."