Gavin Newsom, the popular, handsome--and very available--mayor of San Francisco, was one of those men who could seemingly get any women they wanted. Since his 2005 divorce from Fox News commentator Kimberly Guilfoyle, he had become something of a man about town, spotted at all the fashionable places with various beautiful women on his arm.
But the chatter over Newsom's dating life took a sharp turn away from mere amusement last Thursday, when the mayor admitted he'd had an affair with a female staffer who happened to be married to one of his closest friends. The San Francisco Chronicle, which broke the story, reported that the brief affair took place in 2005, when Newsom was in the midst of his divorce. His paramour worked as the mayor's appointments secretary. Her husband, one of Newsom's top advisers, worked down the hall. On Wednesday, according to the Chronicle, the betrayed husband, Alex Tourk, quit his job as manager of Newsom's re-election campaign after his wife, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, confessed to her dalliance, apparently as part of the therapy she was undergoing for substance abuse. A day later the mayor made a surprisingly blunt admission. "I want to make it clear that everything you've heard and read is true," Newsom said at a packed press conference at city hall. "I am deeply sorry and am accountable for what has occurred and now have begun the process of reconciling it." (Neither Rippey-Tourk nor her husband would comment publicly on the affair.)
Even in permissive San Francisco, news that the young mayor had cuckolded a close friend left the public reeling--and Newsom's political future in doubt. Until now, Newsom, with approval ratings at around 70 percent, had been considered a shoo-in for re-election in November and was a rising star in the Democratic Party. Newsom was talked about as an eventual successor to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, or even a candidate for governor when Arnold Schwarzenegger's term expires in 2010.
But the scandal may not mean the end of Newsom's career. Just ask former mayor Willie Brown. During his second term in office, Brown admitted to fathering a child out of wedlock with his campaign fund-raiser. "Being a hedonist is not a disability in San Francisco," Brown told NEWSWEEK. "That's what the city is all about. You can get loaded every single night of the week and as long as you show up crisp and ready for work each morning, that's what people care about."
For inspiration, Newsom may want to look to popular figures who have also stumbled, only to rise again. "Voters are going to want to give someone they like so much a second chance," says Chris Lehane, a former adviser to Bill Clinton. "Let's not forget that when his marriage broke up, Rudy Giuliani moved out of Gracie Mansion and into a household with two gay gentleman and their Shih Tzu. And now he's running for president." Maybe it's time for Newsom to get a dog.