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Gavin Newsom part 3: Same-sex marriage, Republicans, running for Governor, social media, and hair

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SH: How do you keep learning? How do you know what’s going on?

GN: One way is to have my Lieutenant-Governor’s office in an incubator.

SH: I was going to ask you about that. Why not in the State Building?

GN: I want to experience it. I don’t want to spend time with lobbyists, with security out front, 18 stories up, looking out over Civic Center–

SH: Do you have friends here? You meet all the guys?

GN: Every six months there’s a new group of people that come in. There’s energy.

SH: These are basically young entrepreneurs?

GN: Yeah, time-of-life youth, but also state of mind: There’s also older folks—

SH: You’re 47?

GN: Yeah.

SH: Do you feel the clock [ticking]? Is it important for you to reach out to people half your age, to stay current?

GN: Yeah. I mean, Bobby Kennedy said it: What the world needs are the qualities of youth, not a time of life but a state of mind. A quality of imagination. So if you can maintain that state of mind, predominance of courage over love of ease, that’s a mindset. I want to feel connected to the world around me, and I want to understand this, because, again, you can’t pave over the old cow path. Something big is happening. We’re not explaining it, no one really understands it, but it’s so much bigger than just focusing our attention on Wall Street and hyper-financialization. That’s part of it, but there’s also something big happening with technology and globalization.

SH: Are there any books you can recommend?

GN: One of the best I’ve read in the last year is The Second Machine Age, which talks about the nature of technology, basically says “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” we’re in the second half where every doubling will lead to exponential change. What’s happening now is it’s artificial intelligence, meaning big data, it’s synthetic biology and genomics, it’s 3-D printing. Our new bottle at Odette is a 3-D-printed bottle. So it’s not, for me, science fiction, it’s fact. The world is radically changing.

SH: Let’s move on to same-sex marriage.

GN: Yup!

SH: You know how grateful the LGBT community is to you, personally.

GN: I hope so. I appreciate that

SH: So this is not a question, it’s just an acknowledgment. You have captured so many grateful people’s hearts for what you did. It was so fucking great. [I’m referring to then-Mayor Newsom championing same-sex marriage in San Francisco, which in my opinion led directly to Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case that upheld the legality of same-sex marriage in America.]

GN: Oh, God bless.

SH: And so courageous and heartfelt. I don’t think anyone ever felt, Oh, Gavin’s doing this to get ahead, because if anything, it was a huge risk.

GN: Big setback.

SH: How was it a setback?

GN: Because at the time, it was tough. Even in my family, my father was furious. Catholic, old school. He says, “Can’t you call it something else?” And I had the archbishop [then William Levada], who was a huge supporter of mine, they had a huge protest at City Hall. So it was tough. A lot of family, a lot of friends, and some in my party turned their back on me for years.

SH: Democrats? I didn’t know that.

GN: Oh, boy, they were the worst. The biggest hypocrites were my fellow Democrats, who preached but didn’t practice. And ran, didn’t walk away.

SH: And now they’ve all embraced it.

GN: They embraced it, but it took them, not 2005, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, it took a lot of time. 2010, finally [former Maryland Gov. Martin] O’Malley and [New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo, who were against it…they are friends of mine, I know them well, so I can speak from an authoritative position to tell you they were opposed…

SH: So where does this go? The battle does not seem to be over–

GN: Religious exemptions—

SH: Religious exemptions, there’s nullification out there, which Dr. King talked about.

GN: Yeah. You know, look, the Voting Rights Act didn’t stop Ferguson. And a Supreme Court decision is not going to stop homophobia. You have to change hearts, and that takes time. And I think it’s remarkable how fast this process has advanced, but we have an enormous amount of work to do, and you see that listening to folks like Mike Huckabee, who, I mean, will make a statement—not just in support of Kim Davis, that’s one thing—but when he made a comment that I just thought exposed him for who he is, beyond homophobic, this statement when there was a new appointee to head the Army, I can’t remember the gentleman’s name, just two weeks ago by the President, and Huckabee’s first reaction was, The only reason he’s been nominated is because he happens to be gay. It was to suck up to—

SH: Well, we know that about Huckabee. We know that about Santorum.

GN: These guys, they’re troglodytes.

SH: I want to talk about social media, which is huge obviously, and in the wine industry it’s become a real topic of conversation.

GN: Has it?

SH? How much should wineries get involved, should they invest money. And you’ve been a real pioneer, for a politician, in social media.

GN: You’re got to. If you don’t invest in the future, you’re not going to do very well there. You can deny it, but at the end of the day you’ve got to meet people where they are. It’s a world that’s gone mobile, local, social, a cloud crowd, and unless you’re there, you’re nowhere. So it’s not for me an after-thought. If it’s not integrated through your entire operation, if it’s a separate division, if you’ve got an I.T. guy or girl, you’ve missed the entire point. It’s got to be integrated into the entire body of work.

SH: A lot of small family winery owners are older, and they say, “I don’t tweet, I don’t blog, I don’t know how to do that.” What do you tell them?

GN: Yeah. You know, you get mentored by a twenty-something—

SH: Your nephew!

GN: Yeah. You hire a coach, so to speak, by hiring your grandkid’s best friend.

SH: How many platforms are you on?

GN: Oh, lots. I disproportionally invest heavily in twitter and Facebook and Instagram. We’ve got over a million folks on twitter, and a lot on Facebook and others. That’s where we dive deep. But I will play on all those others.

SH: Do you write your own stuff?

GN: Mostly. Or I’ll sign off on it. I’ll get “Here are three options, which one do you like?” Or I’ll just watch CNN and go—and those are the ones that are risky—someone on my staff will go, “What did you just say?!?” [laughs]

SH: Well, as long as you’re not CUI.

GN: What?

SH: Commenting under the influence.

GN: CUI? That’s funny! Yeah, I got into a twitter war with Huckabee a few weeks ago [laughs].

SH: Seriously? Mano a mano?

GN: Yeah. Then I did a big thing against Trump, you should check it out, we had a lot of fun.

SH: Who’s going to be the Republican nominee?

GN: As a Democrat, my biggest fear would be a Kasich-Rubio ticket.

SH: They are at least competent. They’re not—

GN: Yeah. And it’s geographically advantageous, with Ohio and Florida. There’s some freshness to that ticket.

SH: And a Latino.

GN: That’s exactly right. That’s the one I worry about, although I don’t necessarily see it taking shape. Kasich’s still struggling, although he may do well in New Hampshire. And Rubio’s the beneficiary of all this Trump back and forth with Bush and some of the others.

SH: Who’s the Democratic candidate?

GN: I still think it’s Hillary. I mean, unless there’s something deep that we don’t know about in the emails. Otherwise, I think at a certain point the drip-drip-drip exhausts itself. We’ve got another tranche of emails, maybe another two, three months of this, the Benghazi hearings are going to be critical, how she performs under that pressure… Even if Biden jumps in, and in some respects I think if Biden jumps in it really will help Hillary. It will sharpen her edges; she’s best when her back’s against the wall. She’ll, I think, take more risks. She’ll be more authentic. Her voice will be more resonant.

SH: And which party wins in 2016?

GN: I still think it’s—I look demographically, I look on the issues. If you look where the American people are, Democrats have seven of the top ten things the American people care about. And demographically, it’s very difficult for Republicans. And they’re doing such damage to their brand.

SH: They always damage themselves.

GN: But it’s extraordinary. They did that remarkable report, which they completely neglected, about what happened in the last Presidential election.

SH: I know! The “autopsy.”

GN: Dismissed it completely. Trump, Carly Fiorina, Rubio, who’s a hypocrite on every issue, he’s either flip-flopped or he’s in the stone age, climate change, women’s issues, choice, Cuba, I mean, it’s just as bad as it gets. With all due respect to Rubio, he’s an interesting guy, because he brands himself as fresh, but his policies are older than, I don’t know, I should try to be nicer.

SH: How is the Governor’s race going?

GN: It’s good. It’s nice running by yourself!

SH: No opposition?

GN: Not yet. But it’s so early, it’s tongue-in-cheek. There will be a lot of people in this race this time next year. But it’s 2-1/2 years for the primary, and this time next year there will be three or four people already announced that are quality people.

SH: Like who?

GN: The former Mayor of L.A. [Antonio Villaraigosa], the current Mayor [Eric Garcetti], one or two statewide electeds, couple billionaires, Tom Steyer.

SH: Are you not the prohibitive favorite?

GN: I like our starting position. But I’m taking nothing for granted, and that’s why I started early. So…

SH: Did you always have a plan for high elected office?

GN: No.

SH: I don’t mean when you were three.

GN: I’ve always like politics.

SH: But twenty years ago?

GN: No.

SH: Really? Because some of us who knew you then always felt like, this guy is working so damned hard, what is he working for?

GN: Yeah. But if I look back at my life, I kid you not, the happiest days of my life were running that wine store [the first PlumpJack, on Fillmore Street]. Sitting there stocking the wine late at night, in my jeans, listening to loud music, as some of the most blissful, relaxing, wonderful moments of my life. The energy of opening that, the passion, the camaraderie, friendship, family.

SH: Do you remember telling me, shortly after you opened, about a guy who came in and said he wanted a mixed case of whites and reds, he didn’t care what it was, you could pick them, as long as they were all Parker 90s or higher?

GN: [laughs]

SH: And you told me, “I wanted to throw that guy out on the sidewalk but I thought that wouldn’t be a good way to start my business.”

GN: Yeah. Now we love Parker because he gives us 100 points on our Odette! The 2012 Reserve. I’ll tell you, I’ll take the 2013s over the ‘12s. Unbelievable. But I mean, what we did—you might recall–we had some fun. There were a few Parker scores and a few Spectator scores that were ten points apart, and those were the only scores we put up. Eighty points versus ninety! Eighty-five versus ninety-five! To make a point, the subjectivity here. There are some basic tenets of good wine, but beyond that, the rest is so subjective. That said, the power of those scores is extraordinary.

SH: It is, and let me ask you—since this comes up a lot—the conventional wisdom is that Millennials don’t care about scores, they care about peer-to-peer.

GN: It’s part of social media. Yeah. That’s interesting. I hadn’t really thought about that. Yeah, I think there’s real truth to that.

SH: Because we know the big important critics of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s are either retiring, or getting older. I don’t see anyone really rising up to take their place.

GN: There’s no hot-shot. So that makes it, in many ways, easier for non-incumbents, and much more challenging for others. It will be interesting how that plays out. I think our approach, one thing we don’t do is we don’t sell those scores to distributors, to our key customers. We’re working our tails off 24/7 to try to maintain a mom-and-pop approach and really build those relationships. Gordon and I will go out a couple times a year, hit 15, 20 places.

SH: They must flock to the door when you and Gordon Getty show up.

GN: The point is, we’re reaching out. And I think any good operation in the wine business does that.

SH: Will you be able to do that if you’re Governor?

GN: Not as much. But a little bit of that. If I’m going to show up somewhere, there’s no reason I can’t show up at one of my places for dinner, a winemaker dinner.

SH: Okay, last two fun questions. Tell me one thing we don’t know about your hair.

GN: [laughs] God. This is like Donald Trump. I took a little risk, did a little social media campaign, I kind of made fun of Trump’s hair, and then I realized that that’s not a very safe place for me to criticize! I’m open for a counter-punch. So I’m the butt of my own hair jokes. It’s fair game for criticism. There was a whole cartoon thing they did when I was Mayor, when I tried to stop wearing so much hair gel, and everyone said, “Oh, he’s going through a midlife crisis.” And then I put it back on. I can’t win with the hair.

SH: Would you ever just change the style?

GN: I did when I was Mayor! It lasted one week. There were, like, 25 articles about it. It was so preposterous, the reaction from a few well-known political pundits! [laughs]

SH: Question number two: Tips for staying in shape.

GN: Yeah. You gotta keep moving. You gotta move everyday. And if you’re not moving with intention every day, you gotta make sure that three, four days every week, you are. So, for me, minimum three, four days where I try to work out.

SH: Do you still run?

GN: A little bit.

SH: You used to run Marina Green.

GN: Yeah. I’m less running. If I run, I do sprints, not long runs. I’ll do the stationary bike, spinning bike, which I much prefer, get a good sweat quicker. And a little bit of weights.

SH: That’s it! Thank you Governor Newsom!

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