Meet Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco. He has built a national reputation by pushing the envelope in his city on cutting-edge and controversial policies including same-sex marriage. Read his biography and see photos and a video of him below.

Today, Gavin Newsom launched an exploratory bid for governor of California. This decision places the two-term mayor of one of the most famously liberal cities, out in front of an expected large Democratic field eyeing the race to succeed Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is barred by term limits from running again in 2010. This will be the state’s first open-seat governor’s race in 12 years.

In an interview today, Newsom said he was quite aware of the city’s somewhat eccentric reputation and alluded to the “values” issues — political code for gay rights and other left-leaning positions — that opponents may try to use to his political detriment. “Bring that on,” he said just after signing the papers creating his campaign committee.

“We’re about civil rights and equal rights, you better believe it,” Newsom said. “I’m proud of that, I’m not going to hide from that . . . So now let’s talk about healthcare, education, the environment. Let’s have a conversation about your kids and what you want this state to look like five, 10 years from now.”

As governor, Newsom said, he would have three priorities: reducing poverty, providing universal access to healthcare and improving the state’s education system. He is expected to decide by year’s end whether to proceed with a full-fledged candidacy.

Gavin Newsom Biography

Gavin Newsom was born on October 10, 1967 so his age is 40. He is a fourth-generation San Franciscan. His parents are retired state appeals court Judge William Newsom and Tessa (Menzies) Newsom, who died in May 2002 after a five-year fight with breast cancer. His parents split up when he was two and he and his sister were raised by his mother. He grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from Santa Clara University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.

Two years out of college, Newsom and his investors opened a local business called “The PlumpJack Wine Shop.” Today, PlumpJack has grown to a multi-million dollar enterprise from wineries to retail shops with over 700 employees throughout Northern California. He sold his share of his San Francisco businesses when he became mayor in 2004 but maintained his stakes in the PlumpJack companies outside San Francisco that included the PlumpJack Winery in Napa and the PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn.

Newsom is the current mayor of San Francisco. A Democrat elected in 2003, he succeeded Willie Brown and became San Francisco’s youngest mayor in 100 years.

In 2004, he gained national attention when he issued a directive to the San Francisco city-county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The unexpected move brought national attention to the issues of gay marriage and gay rights, solidifying his political support in San Francisco and in the gay community, and causing several other states to change their laws concerning marriage and gay rights.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Newsom is known to be particularly sensitive to how he is portrayed in the media. At times, he has yelled at reporters, refused to answer questions from certain reporters, abruptly terminated interviews, and has threatened to blacklist news outlets. He has been criticized for having a large number of press releases, made for TV news conferences, and catchy names to new initiatives that might be obscuring what is actually accomplished.

In December 2001, Newsom married Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former San Francisco prosecutor and legal commentator for Court TV and now Fox News Channel. They divorced in 2005. He has been linked to a number of women including an affair with his campaign manager’s wife and a 19 year old restaurant hostess. He is currently engaged to actress Jennifer Siebel. They plan to marry on July 26, 2008.

Gavin Newsom Video
“Gavin Newsom and Arnold Schwarzenegger on Gay Marriage”