Lt. Governor, er, Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Makings of a Constitutional Crisis

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Calbuzz noted at
the end of a well-deserved thumbs-up self-review of the lively Dr. Hackenflack/Calbuzz dinner inauguration night: "Worried Democrats meanwhile kept an anxious
eye on Brown, lest he keel over and make incumbent Lite Gov Abel Maldonado a
full-term governor before Newsom takes the oath of office."

Lt. Governor-elect Gavin Newsom is hanging onto to his position as mayor of San
Francisco until at least this weekend to "wrap up some business." Apparently,
the key business is to hang on to the mayor’s job long enough so that a more
friendly (to Newsom’s thinking) Board of Supervisors gets sworn in so that the
mayor’s temporary successor is more to Newsom’s liking than he may get from the
sitting Board.

By his action, however, Newsom could be setting up a constitutional crisis
and/or allow for Republican Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado to be a four year
governor if something, God forbid, happens to the new governor in the next
couple of days.

Should Maldonado ascend to the governor’s chair, the Lt. Governor’s office
would be open. When Newsom is sworn-in as Lt. Governor he takes over the empty
chair with Maldonado still sitting as governor.

Undoubtedly, Newsom would sue and he may have some arguments, but so would
Maldonado. I asked a top California political lawyer who might win this
argument. After a quick review of the constitution, I was told that both men
would have a case to claim the governorship, but the attorney thinks Maldonado
would prevail.

Thus, we have Calbuzz highlighting worried Democrats while Newsom plays his
political game.

The attorney pointed out that the constitution orders any dispute of this
nature to be settled by the California Supreme Court, which would have original
jurisdiction over such a dispute.

Wouldn’t the new chief justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, just be thrilled the first month on the
job to have a fight over which the rightful governor is fall into her lap?

In the meantime, we wish our governor the best of health.


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