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Jan 16 2019 38376 1
Dated: January 16 2019
Gavin Newsom’s keeping it all in the Family
Gavin Newsom will be the first Democrat in more than a century to succeed another Democrat as governor and the succession also makes a big generational transition in California politics.
A long dominant geriatric quintet from San Francisco Bay Area Governor Jerry Brown, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been slowly ceding power to younger political strivers. Moreover, Newsom is succeeding someone who could be considered his quasi-uncle since his inauguration continues the decades-long saga of four San Francisco families intertwined by blood, by marriage, by money, by culture and of course, by politics-the Browns, the Newsoms, the Pelosis and the Gettys.
The connections date back at least 80 years to when Jerry Brown’s father, Pat Brown, ran for San Francisco district attorney, losing in 1939 but winning in 1943, with the help of his close friend and Gavin Newsom’s grandfather, businessman William Newsom. Fast forward two decades, Gov. Pat Brown’s administration developed Squaw Valley for the 1960’s winter Olympics and afterward awarded a concession to operate it to William Newsom and his partner, John Pelosi.
One of the Pelosi’s sons, Paul, married Nancy D’Alesandro, who went into politics and has now reclaimed the speakership of the House of Representatives. Another Pelosi son married William Newsom’s daughter, Barbara. Until they divorced, that made Nancy Pelosi something like an aunt by marriage to Gavin Newsom(Nancy Pelosi’s brother-in-law was Gavin Newsom’s uncle).
William Newsom wanted to make significant improvements to a ski complex but Browns Department balked and there was a falling out. The Newsomes became embittered and the senior Newsom threatening to “hurt the governor politically” as Brown ran for a third term that year against Ronald Reagan. Brown’s bid for a third term failed and the Reagan administration later bought out the Newsome concession. The Brown-Newsom connection continued as Brown’s son, Jerry, reclaimed the governorship in 1974. He appointed the younger William Newsom, a personal friend of and Gavin’s father, to a Placer County judgeship in 1975 and three years later to the state Court of Appeal.
Judge Newsom, who died in December of 2018, had been an attorney for oil magnate J. Paul Getty, most famously delivering $3 Million to Italian kidnapers of Getty’s grandson in 1973. While serving on the appellate bench in the 1980’s, he helped Getty’s son, Gordon, secure a change in state trust law that allowed him to claim his share of a multi-heir trust. After Newsom retired from the bench in 1995, he became administrator of Gordon Getty’s own trust, telling one interviewer “I make my living working for Gordon Getty.” The trust provided seed money for the chain of restaurants and wine shops that Newsom’s son, Gavin, and Gordon Getty’s son, Billy, developed, the first being in a Squaw Valley hotel.
Gavin Newsom had been informally adopted by the Gettys after his parents divorced, returning a similar favor that the Newsom family had done for a young Gordon Getty many years earlier. Newsom’s business led to a career in San Francisco politics, a stint as mayor, the lieutenant governorship and now to governorship succeeding his father’s old friend. He’s keeping it all in the extended family.