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Gavin Newsom's career in politics: How the multimillionaire restaurateur became the Democrats' candidate-in-waiting for the presidency

Gavin Newsom's career in politics: How the multimillionaire restaurateur became the Democrats' candidate-in-waiting for the presidency
PoliticsPolitics1 min read
While supportive of President Biden's re-election, California Governor Gavin Newsom appears poised to be the next big name for Democrats.Justin Sullivan/Getty Image; Found Image Holdings/Corbis via Getty Images; Nina Riggio/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images; Brontë Wittpenn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images; Alyssa Powell/Insider
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom has denied that he plans to run for president in 2024.
  • While supportive of President Biden's reelection, Newsom is poised to be the next big-name Democrat.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to become the next golden boy of the Democratic party.

Though he has denied plans to run for president in 2024, instead throwing his support behind a reelection campaign for President Joe Biden, Newsom's career trajectory points to a campaign for the country's highest elected office in his future.

In recent years, Newsom has squared off against high-profile critics like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and positioned himself as a national voice on immigration and gun safety. And, despite attempts from critics to push him from the spotlight with recall votes, his star has continued to rise.

Here's a look at the multimillionaire restaurateur's political career, from his early years serving in the Board of Supervisors to his terms as mayor of San Francisco — and eventually Governor of California.

Representatives for Newsom's office did not respond to a request for comment from Insider about what the Governor regards as highlights from his career.

The son of a judge, Newsom took an early interest in politics

The son of a judge, Newsom took an early interest in politics
Gavin Newsom at the opening of the PlumpJack wine shop on Oct. 29, 1992.      Steve Castillo/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Born in 1967 to William Newsom, a California Superior Court judge, and Tessa Thomas (née Menzies), a waitress and paralegal, Newsom had political exposure from his early years. He pursued a degree in political science from Santa Clara University in 1989, after which he created the PlumpJack Group winery with family friend Gordon Getty, billionaire oil tycoon heir, as an investor.

He became the youngest ever member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors

He became the youngest ever member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors
Mayoral candidate Gavin Newsom motivates volunteers at a campaign rally after Secretary of State Kevin Shelley endorsed Newsom for mayor in San Francisco on November 8, 2003.      Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Newsom became the youngest ever member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors when he was appointed in 1997 by then-Mayor Willie Brown — after hosting a fundraising event for Brown at his PlumpJack Cafe's private dining room.

Though his career in public service had just begun, in 1998 Newsom told a reporter he wanted to be president of the United States.

And served as Mayor of San Francisco, the youngest ever elected, for two terms.

And served as Mayor of San Francisco, the youngest ever elected, for two terms.
San Francisco Mayor-elect Gavin Newsom kisses a supporter as he walks through Chinatown the day after he was elected to office December 10, 2003 in San Francisco, California. Newsom defeated Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez in a run-off election to replace outgoing mayor Willie Brown.      Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Newsom served as Mayor of San Francisco from 2004-2011, campaigning on a business-friendly centrist platform. The self-described "social liberal" and "fiscal watchdog" had support in his campaigns from established Democratic Party figures such as Bill Clinton, and Al Gore.

As Mayor, Newsom championed LGBTQ+ rights and environmental initiatives

As Mayor, Newsom championed LGBTQ+ rights and environmental initiatives
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom gestures during a media conference at City Hall on August 12, 2004 in San Francisco, California. Newsom spoke about the ruling by the California Supreme Court which invalidated same-sex marriages.      David Paul Morris/Getty Images

In 2004, Newsom urged the city clerk to issue same-sex couples marriage licenses in violation of a state law that had passed several years prior. He also joined striking union hotel workers on the picket line.

His Democratic star power began to rise

His Democratic star power began to rise
US President Barack Obama chats with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom after stepping off Air Force One May 25, 2010 upon arrival at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco.      MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Newsom, as San Francisco's mayor, became a key player in major Democratic political campaigns, from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.

Newsom became Lieutenant Governor of California in 2011 after a failed 2009 bid to become Governor.

Newsom became Lieutenant Governor of California in 2011 after a failed 2009 bid to become Governor.
California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom speaks on Day Three of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 27, 2016.      SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

Newsom suspended his campaign for Governor in October 2009, filing paperwork to become the state's Lieutenant Governor just months later in February 2010. He assumed the position in 2011, serving for two terms under Governor Jerry Brown.

Newsom became Governor of the Golden State in 2019.

Newsom became Governor of the Golden State in 2019.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom and his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom wave to supporters during election night event on November 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Newsom defeated Republican Gubernatorial candidate John Cox.      Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

As Newsom had already had his sights set on the Governor's office before, his run to fill Brown's seat came as no surprise. He began fundraising in 2015 for the 2018 election, which he won in a landslide against Republican challenger John H. Cox, and was sworn into office in 2019.

Critics tried unsuccessfully to recall him from office.

Critics tried unsuccessfully to recall him from office.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom looks on during a news conference with California attorney General Xavier Becerra at the California State Capitol on August 16, 2019 in Sacramento, California. California attorney genera Xavier Becerra and California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the State of California is suing the Trump administration challenging the legality of a new "public charge" rule that would make it difficult for immigrants to obtain green cards who receive public assistance like food stamps and Medicaid.      Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Newsom faced harsh criticism from his political opponents regarding his pledge to keep California a "sanctuary state" for immigrants, as well as his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw businesses across the state close down while Newsom was spotted dining with lobbyists at the elite Napa Valley restaurant The French Laundry.

While a recall attempt eventually made the ballot, in a move Newsom compared to attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, it received just 38 percent of the vote and failed.

DeSantis has become one of Newsom's chief political rivals

DeSantis has become one of Newsom
Governor of California Gavin Newsom speaks onstage during Vox Media's 2022 Code Conference - Day 2 on September 07, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California.      Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media

As Newsom has more consistently positioned himself as a national voice of authority on issues from immigration to abortion, he has developed a high-profile feud with the Governor of Florida. DeSantis has mocked Newsom's obvious political aspirations, calling Newsom's delay in launching a presidential campaign bid against Biden "pussyfooting around."

Newsom has likewise taken shots at the GOP Governor, calling DeSantis a "small, pathetic man," and floating kidnapping charges against him after immigrants from Florida were "dumped" in California.

Though Newsom's presidential aspirations are clear, he's said for now it's "time to move on" and support Biden's reelection.

Though Newsom
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference on February 01, 2023 in Sacramento, California. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Attorney General Rob Bonta, state Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank) and other state leaders announced SB2 - a new gun safety legislation that would establish stricter standards for Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) permits to carry a firearm in public. The bill designates "sensitive areas," like bars, amusement parks and child daycare centers where guns would not be allowed. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)      Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Newsom's will-he-or-won't-he relationship with a presidential campaign has garnered headlines for years, with the California Governor consistently teasing the idea. This year, though, he says it's "time to move on" from the speculation and rumors, and support Biden's re-election. But when Biden clears the office, Democrats have Newsom waiting in the wings.

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