Front-Runner for California Governor Addresses Decade-Old Affair in #MeToo Era
By Joe Garofoli
In the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, when several politicians have been routed from office for sexually inappropriate behavior from years ago, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom offered an answer for voters who might be hesitant to support him for governor because of a 2007 affair he had with a subordinate while he was mayor of San Francisco.
"I would say the same thing that I said (then) to the voters in San Francisco: that I acknowledged it. I apologized for it. I learned an enormous amount from it," Newsom said Monday during an onstage interview at the University of San Francisco. "And I am every day trying to be a champion and a model -- not just for women and girls -- but to deal with the issue that we need to focus on, which is the crisis with men and boys in this state and in this country." He described a culture of "toxic masculinity" where men are responsible for much of the violence in the nation.
In 2007, Newsom -- who was then separated from his first wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle -- publicly apologized for having a consensual affair with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, who was then his commission appointments secretary.
A subsequent City Attorney's Office report into whether it was proper for Rippey-Tourk to receive $10,154 in "catastrophic illness pay" from the city after she left her job after the affair, uncovered nothing illegal, but raised questions about whether she should have been eligible for the payments. According to the report, the pay was based on her acceptance into the city's Catastrophic Illness Program, or CIP.
The report said it is is supposed to be offered to employees with "a life-threatening illness or injury, as determined by the Department of Public Health" to "reduce hardship and suffering of catastrophically ill city employees." The report questioned whether Rippey-Tourk, who took leave from City Hall in May 2006 to enter a substance abuse program, should have been eligible for that program.
Newsom was speaking Thursday at the University of San Francisco as part of the university's series of one-on-one interviews with the top gubernatorial candidates co-sponsored by Politico and the school's Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good.
Asked by Politico's Carla Marinucci, who conducted the interview, whether he had any similar transgressions since that time, Newsom said, "Of course not."
He applauded the courage of the women who have publicly called out inappropriate sexual behavior in Sacramento.
Last week, the state Senate and Assembly released documents revealing 20 substantiated complaints of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior against lawmakers or high-level legislative staffers over the past 12 years. They included cases against six current and former elected officials, including one of Newsom's gubernatorial candidate rivals -- Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach (Orange County). Allen was found to have routinely gotten "unnecessarily close" to one female staffer in 2013, including sitting close to her while sliding his foot to touch hers.
In a statement, Allen said, "There has never been anything in any of my actions that has been inappropriate, and nor will there ever be."
On policy, Newsom said Monday that he would make addressing homelessness a focus of his governorship and outlined several ways he would address the problem, including appointing a statewide homeless czar.
"That leadership has been lacking for decades in California," Newsom said. "There has been no intentionality supporting local and regional efforts to address the issue of homelessness emanating from Sacramento. None. There are no statewide goals to end homelessness. There is no vision to end homelessness in the state of California.
"I'm going to step up significantly on this issue," he said.
With $19.5 million in the bank, Newsom has a vast fundraising lead over his opponents and is the early poll leader, too. Newsom was the top choice of 26 percent of the likely voters responding to a December 2017 Berkeley IGS Poll, with Villaraigosa at 17 percent. Two Republicans -- Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox and Allen, R-Huntington Beach -- each grabbed 9 percent, with Chiang and former Superintendent of Public Instruction Eastin each getting 5 percent. Another candidate, former Sacramento-area GOP Rep. Doug Ose, entered the race in January and was not included in the polling.
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