Opinion: I Want Gavin Newsom's Job

I’m totally unsuited to public service. But there has always been one government job I’ve coveted: lieutenant governor of California.

It’s the job that every writer dreams of. A steady salary, good benefits, and no real duties (other than checking to make sure the governor is alive and attending the occasional meeting) – which leaves plenty of uninterrupted time for writing.

The last time the job was open, I publicly asked then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to give me the gig. Foolishly, he appointed a young, ambitious politician, Abel Maldonado, who did the same thing he would have done if he didn’t hold the office – raise money and run for another office. I, at least, would have had more time and freedom to write – and thus produced more, at least in words, for my state.

For this reason, I was delighted to see that the current lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, use the job the way I would – to pursue media gigs. And the Mathews Model of the Lieutenant Governorship seems to have worked. He recently got hired to host a talk show on Current TV, the progressive, little-watched network founded by Al Gore.

Now, I’m not sure if this kind of thing – combining a government job with other duties – is kosher in this era of conflict-of-interest rules and regulations. Newsom could come under pressure to give us this sideline.

Here’s hoping he sticks with it, since hosting the show is one of the most useful things a lieutenant governor can do.

To be fair, Newsom, who has openly and correctly suggested the job be eliminated, has done some great research and come up with some intriguing ideas on jobs, the economy and political reform, which the governor and legislature have mostly ignored. Which is yet another reason to have the media gig: it’s the only way anyone will listen to what a lieutenant governor has to say.    

And if Newsom likes the talk show gig so much that he wants to give up the day job, let me assure the people of California that I remain willing to serve, so that I may serve myself.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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