California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom Announces Committee to Run for Governor

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday that he is creating a committee to run for governor of California in 2018. [[291542211, C]]

The former San Francisco mayor, who made national headlines in 2004 when he became the first in the country to direct a city clerk to marry gay couples, said he wants to run for the open post because "I truly and passionately believe in the future of this great state."

In an interview Wednesday, Newsom said he will spend the next few years raising money and devising "a grand strategy'' to restore California's greatness. He said Gov. Jerry Brown deserves credit for restoring the state's fiscal solvency, and the next step is a vision for its future.

“I want to take the time to do it right. One thing you can't manufacture is time, and you can't get it back. So many mistakes in politics and in campaigns are made because of those constraints,'' Newsom said. “And I want the opportunity to look out in to the future with a different perspective, with a more sustainable perspective.''

While the next election for state's chief executive is still more than three years away, political tea leaves were already pointing to a run by Newsom, who has long expressed interest in the post. Last month, he said he would not run for U.S. Senate in 2016, to replace outgoing Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

"I’ve never been a fan of pretense or procrastination," he wrote in an online statement to announce his decision. "After all, our state is defined by its independent, outspoken spirit. When Californians see something we truly believe in, we say so and act accordingly — without evasiveness or equivocation."

He credited Gov. Brown, who must step down due to term limits at the end of his current term, for leading California to "firm fiscal footing, but said the state's "long-term challenges remain daunting." 

"We must continue to grow our economy and create private-sector jobs, we must invest in public education and keep college affordable, we must address the widening inequalities that separate our communities and we must maintain California’s historic leadership in meeting the climate challenge," he said.

In an interview aired live on NBC Bay Area, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Sunday’s Napa earthquake is a sign that the state needs to do more to fund an early-warning system. Bob Redell reports.

Newsom is expected to be part of a crowded field for the seat. Political expert Larry Gerston said even though Newsom will definitely "be in the running," he's far from a "slam dunk."

Gerston ticked off several other likely  Democratic candidates for governor, most notably, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a likely candidate for either governor or U.S. Senate who would largely be supported by the "Latino community in this state who are waiting for their leader." He also said state Treasurer John Chiang, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former California Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg are strong possibilities.

On the Republican side, Gerston said "there's a fairly empty bench." Though he did guess that 2014 Republican nominee Neel Kashari could try again. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingin could also run.

Newsom's stint as San Francisco mayor earned him recognition as a rising Democratic star, despite being rocked by scandal when he acknowledged that he had an affair with the wife of a former top aide and sought treatment for alcohol abuse.

In 2009, Newsom initiated a run for governor, but dropped that idea before the Democratic primary, deciding to run instead for lieutenant governor.

When asked what he learned from his short campaign against Brown, Newsom said, “Don't ever consider running for office against someone in the state of California with the last name Brown.''

Although Newsom praised Brown in his announcement Wednesday, the two are not known to be close, despite a longstanding familial relationship. As governor from 1975 to 1983, Brown appointed Newsom's father to the Superior Court and later to the state Court of Appeals.

Newsom last year became the highest-ranking Democrat to challenge Brown's $68 billion high-speed rail project, saying he no longer backs the bullet train and would like to see the money diverted to more pressing infrastructure needs.

He said Wednesday that hasn't given up on the project and he hopes Brown can solve its problems.

He has been openly critical about the lack of power that comes with his current role. That didn't stop him from running — or winning — a second term at the low-profile post; he coasted to a second term with 55 percent of the vote in the November election. 

Opening a campaign committee nearly four years before the election allows Newsom to begin collecting large checks, boost his name recognition and portray himself as the front-runner. He has more than $3 million remaining in his campaign account for lieutenant governor after cruising to re-election in November.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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