California Sen. Dianne Feinstein endorsed Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor on Tuesday, praising the San Francisco mayor for a "stellar record" that she said proves his drive for innovative reform and smart-budgeting.
"We need his kind of solutions-based leadership in Sacramento more than ever to fulfill the promise of our great state," the senator said in a statement released by the Newsom campaign.
Feinstein's endorsement wasn't a big surprise because the San Francisco Democrats have been friends for years, but it could be a boost for Newsom, who has had a hard time gaining popularity outside the San Francisco Bay area.
Feinstein, who also served two terms as San Francisco mayor, is consistently ranked as California's most popular politician.
Newsom said he was proud and honored to receive Feinstein's blessing, calling her a trailblazer and passionate advocate for Californians.
"Her tremendous accomplishments in environmental protection, public health and safety have benefited us all," he said in a statement.
Newsom has promoted his own success on universal health care in San Francisco and alternative energy programs throughout his campaign.
Newsom is competing against Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn for the Democratic nomination in the June 8 primary. Hahn's campaign had little to say about the endorsement.
"It's the former mayor of San Francisco endorsing the current mayor of San Francisco -- no surprise," said Michael Trujillo, a campaign spokesman.
While Feinstein and Newsom have deep family ties, they haven't always seen eye to eye.
When Newsom made headlines in 2004 after directing city workers to grant marriage licenses to gay couples, Feinstein was among some Democrats who blamed him for helping fuel a conservative backlash that propelled President George W. Bush to re-election that same year.
"It gives them a position to rally around," Feinstein, a supporter of gay marriage, said at the time. "That whole issue (gay marriage) has been too much, too fast, too soon. People aren't ready for it."
Still, Feinstein's appeal -- a Los Angeles Times/USC poll released Monday calculated her job approval rating as 46 percent -- may help Newsom capture some independents and more conservative Democrats who have seen him as too liberal because of his gay marriage advocacy.
Californian's views on gay marriage have changed since Newsom's 2004 action. A recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California found that for the first time more Californians support gay marriage than oppose it.
The lieutentant governor post, which is next in line of succession to become governor in the event of death, resignation or removal, was vacated by John Garamendi, who won a congressional seat last year.