Newsom prepares for battle with Calif. AG

Legal News Line Dec. 22, 2008, 11:30am

Jerry Brown (D)

Gavin Newsom (D)

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline)-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has quietly ramped up efforts to carve into California Attorney General Jerry Brown's political base in preparation for the 2010 gubernatorial election.

Newsom and Brown, both liberals from the San Francisco-Bay Area, are hard at work lining up powerful backers and piles of campaign cash, each with an eye cast on the other's strongest supporters.

According to published reports, Newsom's exploratory committee has raised more than half a million dollars - far less than what he'll need to launch a serious bid, but far more than many expected him to have this early - from traditional supporters like developers and same-sex marriage supporters.

"He has traditional supporters and he has new supporters," Newsom's political advisor Eric Jaye said.

In 2004, when Newsom opened City Hall to perform same sex marriages, the mayor became best known outside of Northern California for his active support of same sex marriages. The issue peaked again this summer following a 4-3 ruling by the state Supreme Court to allow marriages in California. More than 18,000 same-sex couples were married in California before voters approved a ban, known as Proposition 8, in the November election, which many believed to be a huge political defeat for Newsom.

Brown edged into Newsom's territory last week when he argued before the state Supreme Court that Proposition 8 should be struck down by the courts, which would re-open the state to same-sex marriages.

Brown had originally said he'd support the law as passed by the people, but when requested by the court to make an argument on behalf of the state,

the attorney general's office said the ballot measure deprives people of the right to marry-an aspect of liberty that the Supreme Court has concluded is guaranteed by the California Constitution.

"Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification," Attorney General Brown said.

Brown argued existing case-law precedents of the court do not invalidate Proposition 8 either as a revision or as a violation of the separation-of-powers doctrine. But this does not resolve the matter..

Then add that many Proposition 8 opponents have argued that the the ballot measure was so significant that it constitutes a "revision" of the state Constitution, not an amendment. By law, revisions must garner a supermajority of voter support. Proposition 8 passed with just over 52 percent.

"Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification," Brown announced.

The argument made by Brown "borders on frivolous," according to UCLA law Professor Daniel Lowenstein. But frivolous or not, it appealed to many of the party liberals throughout the state that are essential for victory in a contested Democratic primary.

Brown has made his own financial push in recent weeks, pushing his ambiguous Jerry Brown 2010 account, formerly an account used to raise money for re-election to his current post as attorney general, close to $2 million, according to published reports.

Newsom is expected to counterpunch with his own push to garner support from the state police associations - long very tight with Brown - following the retirement of his relatively unpopular city Police Chief Heather Fong on Friday.

Newsom can appoint a new police chief and try to tout his credentials with the high profile move, according to several bay area columnists.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Attorney General Jerry Brown's legal argument. We regret the error.

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