Gavin Newsom is dropping out of the race for governor of California.
The mayor of San Francisco issued a statement today citing his family responsibilities and city hall commitments as the reasons for not pursuing the job of replacing Arnold Schwarzenegger in Sacramento.
But his campaign, which he officially launched in March, had trouble gaining much traction and, despite some significant support from some high profile industry donors, posted lackluster fund-raising results overall.
Newsom was facing a stiff challenge from California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who recently received the endorsements of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.
Brown is not officially in the race, but last month set up an exploratory committee. Before that, he had been raising money for his reelection campaign for attorney general, money that can be rolled into his gubernatorial bid, and even by those marks had outraised Newsom.
Newsom had lined up a significant list of names in Hollywood, like Ari Emanuel, Ben Silverman, Jeffrey Kwatinetz and Chris Silbermann, as well as such celebrities as Ryan Seacrest and Rosie O'Donnell. With his support of same-sex marriage, he also had drawn gay and lesbian supporters in the business, such as Skip Paul and Bruce Cohen.
He was even scheduled to attend a fund-raiser this evening at the home of producer Bill Block, who recently wrote a check for $6,000, and there were plans for an event at Emanuel's home in December. One source said Newsom cancelled an appearance at Block's event on Thursday afternoon, citing pressing business in San Francisco.
More than anything, Newsom's endorsement by former President Bill Clinton, along with a campaign swing and fund-raiser earlier this month, were events that his campaign had hoped would provide a jolt. But those numbers, too, were apparently disappointing, based on initial campaign disclosure reports.
Newsom's spokesman, Peter Ragone, told the Los Angeles Times, "He needed to spend most of his waking hours raising money for the next few months in order for the campaign to be viable."
Even as industry supporters expressed surprise at the news today, rumors had been swirling for the past month or so that Newsom was considering dropping out, perhaps to seek the lieutenant governor slot instead. He made no mention of seeking that slot in today's announcement.
Although Newsom's departure leaves the field open for Brown, there has been some speculation that another Democrat could get in the race, such as Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), who fell short in her bid for governor in 1998. To be viable, any candidate who gets in the race would have to have a strong network of fund-raisers or the ability to self finance, both to face Brown's strength and the general election challenge of potential Republican nominees Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, millionaires who already have written substantial checks for their own bids.
Andy Spahn, political adviser to the DreamWorks founders, said that he started to reach out to Newsom donors this afternoon, e-mailing the withdrawal announcement. Even before Newsom ended his bid, he said, the fund-raiser had been on track to raise in the seven figures. The Nov. 18 event, with tickets starting at $5,000 per person, will be held at the home of Sandy Gallin, and the list of co-hosts also includes J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath, Wallis Annenberg, Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller, Larry Ellison and John Emerson. Among those who have contributed to his exploratory committee is James Nederlander, who has chipped in $25,000.
Here is the statement from Newsom:
"It is with great regret I announce today that I am withdrawing from the race for governor of California. With a young family and responsibilities at city hall, I have found it impossible to commit the time required to complete this effort the way it needs to — and should be — done.
"This is not an easy decision. But it is one made with the best intentions for my wife, my daughter, the residents of the city and county of San Francisco, and California Democrats.
"When I embarked on this campaign in April, my goal was to engage thousands and thousands of Californians dedicated to reforming our broken system and bringing change to Sacramento.
"I would like to thank those supporters, volunteers, and donors who have worked so hard on my behalf. I have been humbled by their support and am indebted to their efforts. They represent the spirit of change and determination essential to putting California back on the right track.
"I will continue to fight for change and the causes and issues for which I care deeply — universal health care, a cleaner environment, and a green economy for our families, better education for our children, and, of course, equal rights under the law for all citizens."
-- Josh Marks