San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom glided easily through the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor yesterday, and now readies himself for a competitive general election race against Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado, a former state senator from Santa Maria.

The charismatic mayor will undoubtedly be relying upon the statewide name recognition, and social networking contacts, he built up during his aborted run for governor in 2009.

If there was ever a rock star politician, Newsom is it, although he's also been described as something of a “thin-skinned” opportunist in his hometown, which S.F. Weekly examines in an in-depth profile titled “The Wrong Stuff.”

In fact, whoever runs for lieutenant governor, or holds that office, often has an eye for a bigger, more powerful job down the road — the lieutenant governor has little political influence or power in Sacramento.

Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado

Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado

Maldonado, a moderate Republican, only took over as lieutenant governor this year when he was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, another moderate Republican, to fill the vacant office.

Both Newsom and Maldonado have talked about creating more jobs in California through the little-known Commission for Economic Development, which the lieutenant governor heads up. In reality, few legislators in Sacramento take that commission's recommendations to heart, political observers say.

Still, if the governor suddenly can't perform his duties, the lieutenant governor takes over. With that possibility, voters ultimately have to decide which man they'd rather see run the state on a moment's notice.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at

LA Weekly