Gavin Newsom Gets Testy Facing Unknown Future

Since he dropped out of the California governor's race last month, where has San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom been? That's exactly what local TV news reporter Hank Plante asked the mayor last week during an interview—one of the few he has given over the past month. Newsom answered with the amount of San Francisco's current deficit—$522 million—as reason for having ducked out of public view. But Plante wasn't buying it. He challenged Newsom on a staff shake-up, including several resignations from senior staff. Then there were questions about an off-the-radar weekend getaway Newsom took to Hawaii without telling key members of his staff. And then about why he had missed so many important public appearances. By the time Plante got around to asking about the deficit, a clearly agitated Newsom was done being patient. Leaving the room, he shook his head and grinned at the camera, declaring "off the record" how "amazingly disappointed" he was in the questioning.

In Newsom's case, that kind of frustration is understandable. After such a long run of popularity in San Francisco, being told by the rest of the state that you aren't good enough to be governor would logically make him want to lie low until the news cycle passes. But to make matters worse, Newsom is also faced with the reality that in 2012, after his last term ends, he won't be mayor either. From a public official's point of view, it's an equation that's rather embarrassing. Usually in politics, almost anything can be spun to make it sound like you've won, but no amount of PR work can mask the fact that pretty soon Newsom will be unemployed.

Of course, he won't stay that way for long. With his stature and connections, someone will certainly offer Newsom a corner office and fat paycheck. But will he take an outside job? Newsom is reportedly mulling several ways to maintain his relevance, having told The Wall Street Journal that he plans on "being in politics for the long haul." That could signify a future run for office, but a spokesman also told the that Newsom is entertaining more focus on his Napa Valley winery, PlumpJack, which he founded in 1997. It's unclear which future office Newsom would seek, but considering the mounting pressure for him to address the city's deficit and the approaching opportunity to escape the public eye, the choice seems like a no-brainer: vintners don't have to sit for interviews.