President Clinton in LA to endorse Gavin Newsom for governor

Former President Bill Clinton endorses California Gubernatorial Candidate Gavin Newsom.
Former President Bill Clinton endorses California Gubernatorial Candidate Gavin Newsom.
Gary McCarthy/William J. Clinton Foundation

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Former President Bill Clinton’s visiting Southern California Monday to help Gavin Newsom in his campaign for governor. KPCC’s Frank Stoltze says Clinton planned to appear with the San Francisco mayor at Los Angeles City College Sunday afternoon and at a private fundraiser.

It’s unusual for a former president to jump into a gubernatorial primary. One analyst said Clinton’s doing that because he may relate to Newsom – a young, up-and-coming politician.

Long ago, the former president also had a nasty clash with California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who’s expected to be Newsom’s chief rival. In 1992, when the two competed for the Democratic nomination for president, Brown accused then-Arkansas Governor Clinton of corruption. Here's an excerpt:

Brown: “He is funneling money to his wife’s law firm for state business – that’s number one.”

Clinton: “I don’t care what you say about me, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife. You’re not worth being on the same platform with my wife.”

Brown: “I’ll tell you something Mr. Clinton, don’t try to escape it.”

USC political scientist Dan Schnur said the two never got along after that. Schnur says Clinton’s support for Newsom changes the dynamics of the election that’s still nine months away.

“Because Jerry Brown is so well known, particularly by Democratic Party primary voters - he'd gone way ahead in the polls and was in the process of raising a lot more money than Newsom - and so Clinton in this regard plays the role of the great equalizer."

Clinton’s campaign donor list in California is legendary. The question remains – how much will he help Newsom tap into it?

Brown – who was governor of California in the late 1970’s and early 80’s – has yet to formally announce his bid to hold the state’s top job again. He says he thinks campaigns are too long.

Newsom spent the summer convening town halls across the state

“That was a long answer. I hope I can keep ‘em shorter. Politician with a microphone – very dangerous! (LAUGHING).”

During one South Los Angeles event, Newsom said he’d make addressing poverty through green jobs a top priority in California. He pledged he’d be a bold governor, and alluded to his famous decision five years ago to allow same-sex marriages in San Francisco.

“I think you know this about me – whether you support me or not – whether you like me or not. You know that I am not afraid to take risks, that I’ve been involved in a lot of controversial issues (laughs, applause). That’s what we need in the next governor.”

Newsom took questions too, including one about sleeping with a top aide’s wife. He said he's human.

“I made a mistake and I owned up to the mistake. I hurt people I care about and I regret that the rest of my life.”

Attorney Shahiedah Shabazz practices real estate law for a non-profit in Los Angeles.

“Right now, political reform is very important, so I just wanted to get to know our candidates.”

The Harbor area resident says she liked what Newsom had to say.

“I was very impressed with him. He seems very educated on the major issues. He does a great job of engaging the crowd and responding to specific concerns and questions. I feel like he has a lot of promise.”

At the same time, Shabazz, who lives in the Harbor area, said she hasn’t made up her mind about who she’ll support in a gubernatorial election that’s hardly on the radar screen for most voters.