Watch CBS News

Former San Francisco mayor who helped launch Gov. Newsom's career speaks on his political future

Willie Brown discusses one-time protege Gov. Gavin Newsom's political future
Willie Brown discusses one-time protege Gov. Gavin Newsom's political future 04:39

SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom's political future is getting a lot of national attention right now.

Newsom's insistence that he is not running for president is not stopping the persistence of people around him from wondering – even from the man who helped launch his career, Wille Brown.

I met up with the former San Francisco mayor at one of his favorite cafes to talk about Newsom's future. I asked Brown if he thinks his one-time protege has eyes on the White House.

"There is no way in the world anybody who's ever met him would answer that question any differently. He would like already to be president," Brown said with a laugh.

It was back in 1996 that Brown first appointed Newsom to the parking commission in San Francisco. Brown appointed him after Newsom volunteered on his mayoral campaign by bar hopping to seek support.

Brown won. Even then, as Newsom became parking commissioner and then city supervisor, his political future attracted attention.

"When they got up to toast him, one of his buddies proceeded to toast him, 'Mister mayor, the next time we'll be toasting this man on his birthday, he'll be in the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and you're invited," Brown said. "That was before he was anything."

"What do you think it is about Gavin Newsom that has led to this evolution to where he's at now?" CBS13's Steve Large asked.

"I think Gavin played his cards right, played his hand well," Brown responded.

Now the former parking commissioner turned governor is a global brand. Newsom has traveled to war zones, to China, and crisscrossed the United States campaigning for the Democratic party.

"This is a guy, when we look at our crystal ball, who is headed to the national stage to restart the Democratic party," David McCuan said. "I can't even underestimate that."

McCuan is a political science professor at Sonoma State who sees Newsom clearly campaigning for a new era in politics and a new kind of voter in the "Rising American Electorate."

"The RAE is younger, more urban, more diverse," McCuan said. "They don't particularly care who you sleep with or what you smoke or what you do, but they're really worried about their economic future."

Newsom would be following other former California governors in the pursuit of the presidency. His predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, made his own attempt. Ronald Reagan is the obvious and only successful example.

The man who started Gavin Newsom's career in parking now says the California governor is running for president.

"I think Newsom, every step he takes on whatever journey appears to be on, it really is in direct pursuit of achieving the goal that he has long since pre-determined," Brown said.

Brown and Newsom are still close. Brown said he is on Newsom's schedule for a phone call every week.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.