No one was surprised when Gavin Newsom announced April 21 that he would run for California governor. The young mayor of San Francisco has not tried to hide his ambition for higher office, even hinting he may one day run for president. What was surprising, though, was that Newsom announced his bid via Twitter: "It's official running for Gov of CA. Wanted you to be the first to know. Need your help."
Newsom, whose mayoral term has seen the admission of both an affair with a friend's wife and an alcohol abuse problem, will face stiff competition in his quest for the governor's mansion. Likely opponents for the Democratic nomination include state attorney general Jerry Brown (also a former governor), former eBay CEO Meg Whitman and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. But Newsom has shattered expectations before, particularly those predicting he would be a centrist mayor disloyal to San Francisco's liberal tradition. (See TIME's White House Photo Blog)
He's a 42-year-old San Francisco native and the youngest mayor of the city in more than 100 years. He is dyslexic and was reportedly drafted by the Texas Rangers in high school, but decided to attend Santa Clara University on a partial baseball scholarship.
Shortly after graduating from college, Newsom opened a wine shop, with the help of investor Gordon Getty, one of the Bay Area's most wealthy scions. The Gettys had been family friends of the Newsoms for years and reportedly even bankrolled Newsom's lavish wedding to his first wife.
Newsom's wine shop eventually sprouted 15 separate businesses and made him a millionaire. In 1996, then Mayor Willie Brown appointed Newsom to the city's parking and traffic commission and later the board of supervisors. Newsom ran for mayor in 2003, narrowly beating out a Green Party candidate in a runoff. (Newsom was re-elected in 2007 with 73% of the vote.)
On his 36th day as mayor, Newsom ordered the City Clerk to start marrying same-sex couples, in violation of California law. Newsom made the controversial move against the advice of much of his staff as well as Democrats concerned the action would galvanize the Republican Party. Some 4,000 gay couples tied the knot before the state courts declared the marriages invalid. During the height of the ensuing publicity, Newsom said he received over 1,000 death threats.
In public office, Newsom has gained a reputation as a policy wonk and has focused on several other key issues:
reducing San Francisco's homeless population by cutting welfare payments in exchange for services, including housing
universal health care, championing a program that has insured nearly 40,000 uninsured San Franciscans, funded in part, by fees paid by employers
the environment, banning plastic bags in the city, endorsing the Kyoto Protocol and luring "green" companies to relocate to San Francisco
Shortly after he became mayor, Newsom dressed in disguise and walked around some of San Francisco's roughest neighborhoods to survey for himself what needed to be cleaned up and fixed. He also appointed the first woman police chief in the city's history and the first female fire chief in a major city.
Gavin's first wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former lingerie model, was a lawyer and correspondent for Court TV based in New York City. (Earlier, Newsom had briefly dated the singer Jewel.) Shortly after Newsom was elected to his first term, he and Guilfoyle appeared together in a Harper's Bazaar magazine spread the publication declared them "The New Kennedys." But the couple divorced in 2005, saying the strain of a bi-coastal relationship was too hard.
After his divorce, Newsom was forced to publicly admit in 2006 that he had had an affair with his campaign manager's wife. The woman had disclosed the infidelity to her husband, who had also served as Newsom's deputy chief of staff. In a press conference admitting to the affair, Newsom also said he was getting treatment for alcohol abuse.
In 2008, Newsom married Jennifer Siebel, a 34-year-old actress he had met on a blind date who had previously dated George Clooney.
"I'm the gay marriage mayor ... I'm an icon of myself."
on how his same-sex marriage push has defined his reputation, The Advocate, April 8, 2008
"In the public sector, politicians are risk-averse. They're afraid of trying something new because they might see a bad headline the next day. That's a problem."
on courage in public office, Time.com, Aug. 21, 2008
"I want to make it clear that everything you've heard and read is true, and I am deeply sorry about that."
admitting he had an affair with his former secretary who was also his campaign manager's wife, New York Times, Feb. 2, 2007
"L'Oreal. And it's the Clean Gel. It's the Total Control Clean Gel, because they've got seven or eight products, and the other ones don't work."
on what hair product he uses, Ryan Seacrest Live, Mar. 17, 2009
"Right now, most people outside of San Francisco only know two things about Gavin Newson: he supports same-sex marriage and he cheated [with] his best friend's wife. He can fix that, but if he doesn't do it quick, he's going to become a punch line."
Dan Schnur, a Republican consultant, on whether Newsom has a shot at higher office, Time.com, Feb. 2, 2007
"He's a 36-year-old golden boy with Getty money. There are large ambitions here the Gettys, Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein: they're thinking, President Newsom."
Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco supervisor, on Newsom's future, The New Yorker, Oct. 4, 2004
"In any civil rights struggle, gains are made by spectacular boldness, and Newsom was spectacularly bold."
Kate Kendell, a gay rights activist, on Newsom's decision to let same-sex couples get married in San Francisco, The New Yorker, Oct. 4, 2004
"Let's face it, Gavin has glamour ... He sets hearts aflutter for both straight and gay people because he's young, handsome and charismatic."
Tom Rielly, 42, a founder of PlanetOut, a gay online and magazine publishing company, New York Times, Apr. 9, 2006