The first question that springs to mind when looking to California’s gubernatorial election in 2010 is, Who would want the job? That’s particularly true in entertainment, where the politically minded have watched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reform agenda sink under the byzantine budget process.
Before a group of agents and executives at ICM on Friday, Newsom painted a more optimistic picture of the state’s future in the face of a daunting fiscal crisis and certainly cynicism as he tries to secure entertainment industry support for what promises to be a heated campaign for the Democratic nomination. Although it is way early, Newsom already has garnered the backing of some of those who were early supporters and fund-raisers for Barack Obama, including Chris Silbermann, ICM’s president. On Wednesday, Newsom is scheduled to attend a fund-raiser at the Santa Monica home of Craig and Lynn Jacobson, with co-hosts including Ari Emanuel, Jamie Lynton and Eric Paquette.
Attorney General Jerry Brown, likely to be his chief rival for the nomination, has not been as aggressive in holding fund-raisers and courting donors in person, but the word is that he has been working the phones in seeking support. On the Republican side, Meg Whitman has garnered support from MGM chief Harry Sloan and former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel.
At this early stage, it seems the challenge for Newsom, or any other candidate, is to convince voters that he or she can reform the system where Schwarzenegger could not. Just think how much more cynical things have gotten in Sacramento today vs. 2003. (Just read Schwarzenegger’s comments from yesterday’s KNBC”Press Conference.”)
And before this audience, Newsom pointed to his centrist credentials. In response to a question from one ICM employee, who was concerned about the state’s competitiveness if upper income earners shoulder a greater share of the tax burden, Newsom agreed and said that the solution to the budget crisis “can’t simply be to raise top tax rates.”
But in calling for a constitutional convention, and in citing the structural problems that the state faces, Newsom ventured into much trickier territory politically. He suggested that Proposition 13 needs to be looked at as well, noting that those who benefit from its cap on property taxes end up paying more in other ways, such as through state income taxes and fees. “We need to keep an open mind,” he said. Noting that Prop 13 is a “third rail” issue, he nevertheless said that it should be discussed and noted Warren Buffett’s opposition to it.
He noted that the vehicle license fee had traditionally been 2 percent, and that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger dropped it to 0.6 percent.
In the time since, the state would have raised more than $31 billion at the 2 percent level, he said. “The irony is that he just raised it to 1.3 percent,” he said.
Meanwhile, Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were praiseworthy of each other at a press conference before the Pride parade in West Hollywood on Sunday, only adding to the tea-leaves speculation of Villaraigosa’s intentions. When asked whether he would get into the governor’s race, Villaraigosa declined to answer.
Photo: Antonio Villaraigosa and Gavin Newsom before the West Hollywood Pride parade on Sunday.