SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Lieutenant governor of California is a low-visibility position with few official duties, and officeholders have historically struggled to define their role in the job.

Still, the incumbent and his challenger each insist the position can be influential beyond serving on the governing boards of the University of California and California State University systems, and filling in when the governor is out of state.

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Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has tried to use the position as a bully pulpit over the past four years on a wide range of issues, including domestic violence in the NFL, gay marriage and California’s budget. He has announced his support for the legalization of marijuana and his opposition to Gov. Jerry Brown’s high-speed rail project.

NAME – Gavin Newsom

AGE-BIRTH DATE-BIRTHPLACE – 46; Oct. 10, 1967; San Francisco.

PARTY – Democratic

EXPERIENCE – California lieutenant governor, 2011-present; mayor of San Francisco, 1998-2006; San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, 1997-2004; Owner, PlumpJack Associates LP 1991-2004.

EDUCATION – Bachelor’s degree, Santa Clara University

FAMILY – Wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom; Three children.

QUOTE – “California needs to be on track to educate and train a greater number of residents with higher levels of knowledge and skills. We need to reshape and rethink our success models of higher education.”


NAME – Ron Nehring

AGE-BIRTH DATE-BIRTHPLACE – 44; May 20, 1970; Islip, New York.

PARTY – Republican

EXPERIENCE – Political consultant, 2007-present; state Republican Party chairman, 2007-2011; San Diego County Republican Party chairman, 2001-2007; Grossmont Union High School District trustee, 2004-2006;

EDUCATION – Bachelor’s degree, Stony Brook University (SUNY Stony Brook), 1992.

FAMILY – Single

QUOTE – “The office is what the holder makes of it.”

He also said he helped revamp a moribund State Lands Commission after he took office. The lieutenant governor is one of three members of the commission and serves as its chair every other year. The lands commission manages some of the state’s national resources.

“It’s true that the office doesn’t come with much authority, but I have been much more aggressive with it than most,” Newsom said. “You have a little platform to express yourself.”

Newsom, 46, previously served eight years as San Francisco mayor and garnered national attention when he ordered the city clerk in 2004 to ignore state law at the time and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Newsom’s actions led directly to the legal cases that ultimately legalized gay marriage in California.


Republican challenger Ron Nehring, 44, served four years as the state Republican Party chairman and is now a political consultant based in San Diego.

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He complains that Newsom is using the office for a taxpayer-funded future campaign for governor and has not taken advantage of the lieutenant governor’s position as chair of the California Commission for Economic Development to help bolster the economy.

Newsom counters that economic issues are a priority even though the governor’s failure to appoint members to the commission means it cannot meet. Newsom said he is urging the governor to fill open seats on the 17-member commission and expects it will convene with a quorum this year.

Newsom launched a short-lived campaign in 2009 for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, dropping out amid overwhelming poll numbers in favor of eventual winner Gov. Jerry Brown. Newsom is widely expected to run for higher office in the future.

Nehring vows to use the lieutenant governor’s office to drum up support for the state economy if his admittedly long-shot campaign pays off with a victory.

“The office is what the holder makes of it,” Nehring said. “The incumbent has treated the post as one he doesn’t want.”

Nehring is working with little in the way of campaign contributions and name recognition. He has collected about $40,000 in campaign contributions compared to Newsom’s $1 million.

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Even history is working against the San Diego resident who served on an area school board. The last Republican to hold the office was Mike Curb, who was elected in 1978.