Gavin Newsom is writing a book. Is he hoping to take a page from Obama?


California Gov. Gavin Newsom is working on his third book, a memoir that will allow him to tell his life’s story to a national audience that may not know much about the Democratic governor who will leave office in 2½ years.

Boosting his national image has become a regular feature of Newsom’s second and final term as governor, as he’s traveled the country to stump for President Biden’s reelection, attack Republicans and appear on cable news shows. Newsom has said he’s not interested in running for president, but writing a memoir may be his most overt move yet that indicates otherwise.

“The governor is writing a book, and he looks forward to sharing it whenever it is completed,” said Nathan Click, a spokesperson for Newsom, when asked about the project.

Politicians seeking to introduce themselves to more voters routinely publish an autobiographical book as they explore whether to launch a campaign. A litany of presidential candidates — successful and not — have written books before they embarked on runs, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Gov. Ron Desantis and Sen. Bernie Sanders, to name a few.

The promotional tours that typically accompany a book release provide opportunities to meet voters in swing states and appear on a range of media platforms.

David Axelrod, former adviser to President Obama and CNN analyst, recalled how the 44th president released his second book “Audacity of Hope” in fall of 2006, months before he announced his run for president. The tour gave him a reason to speak to audiences who were unfamiliar with the then junior Senator from Illinois.

That book and Obama’s memoir were both successful, Axelrod said, because they were bracingly authentic and did not come off as canned stories told by a politician. When Axelrod had Newsom on his podcast last year, the governor talked about his struggles with dyslexia and the challenges of his upbringing with divorced parents.

On the podcast, Newsom described the juxtapositions he experienced growing up in San Francisco where his father, an attorney who managed the trust of the Getty family of oil heirs, exposed him to a world of wealth and privilege that included safaris to Africa, while his mother struggled financially.

“When politicians are revealing in these books, they truly give you a window into something. Not a lot of politicians do that, especially practicing ones,” Axelrod said.

“The temptation is to tell the story with some gloss on it because you think that’s the story that will be most salable. Newsom has a really interesting life. This could be a great book. What I learned from sitting down with him is he presents more like a Getty than a Newsom, but what he has is a story of real struggle and triumph over those struggles. That’s a good story.”

Newsom has been working on the book over the last four years, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter who declined to be named in order to discuss private conversations. It’s not clear when the book will be published or which publisher is involved.

Newsom’s prior books were published by imprints of Penguin Random House. His first, “Citizenville, How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government,” was co-written with Lisa Dickey and surveyed Silicon Valley leaders about how data could be better used to make government decisions.

The book was informed by his time as San Francisco mayor and came out in 2013 after he’d been elected lieutenant governor. His second foray into publishing was a children’s book, “Ben and Emma’s Big Hit,” which he co-wrote with Ruth Shamir and Alexandra Thompson illustrated.

The book focused on a young boy’s love of baseball and attempts to overcome his struggles with dyslexia. The story was inspired by Newsom’s own history with dyslexia, which he said he discovered he had in fifth grade. The learning issue caused him to fall behind in school and other children viewed him as the “slow kid,” he told The Times in a 2021 interview.

Newsom said he was hesitant to talk about his experience with dyslexia for decades and he later realized that the learning disorder was a gift that forced him to work harder than his competitors.

In the interview, Newsom said stories about his connection to the Gettys belied his actual upbringing. But the more he attempted to recast the narrative about his life, he said, the more people pushed back.

“I’m not the person that I see in those headlines, the Gavin-Getty articles that have been written 3000 times,” Newsom said. “I mean, at a certain point, you just give up.”



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