Clinton lends shine to lusterless Calif. campaign

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Associated Press

Posted on October 7, 2009 at 7:04 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 7 at 7:04 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With his campaign for governor off to a sluggish start, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom enlisted former President Bill Clinton on Monday to help him raise political funds and the visibility of his candidacy.

Candidates carefully plan the moment to roll out their marquee supporters, but it was unusual to see a figure of Clinton's stature on the campaign trail nine months before the June primary when few voters are paying attention. Early polls and fundraising totals show Newsom lagging behind another potential Democratic rival, Attorney General Jerry Brown, the former two-term governor.

The former president and the mayor known for his support of same-sex marriage visited classrooms at Los Angeles City College before attending a private fundraiser, where tickets were priced up to $50,000.

Clinton's blessing, announced weeks earlier, was not surprising. Last year, Newsom supported Hillary Rodham Clinton's White House bid before she pulled out of the campaign.

Brown and Bill Clinton have a history, too. They were rivals for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination and in one testy exchange Clinton said Brown made "a lying accusation about my wife."

Newsom and Clinton appeared together at a school library, where the former president embarked on a long discussion of green jobs and the economy before turning his attention to Newsom. He said the mayor "walked the walk" by making San Francisco one of the greenest cities in the nation.

He talked far longer about climate change and the economy than the California campaign.

"It's a big deal to have President Clinton's support at any time," Newsom said. He thanked the former president for showing "faith in this effort."

They took no questions from reporters.

Last week, Brown took a first step toward a gubernatorial bid in 2010, filing paperwork with the secretary of state's office to form an exploratory committee.

The filing allows Brown to collect up to $25,900 from individual donors for his potential Democratic gubernatorial bid. In July he reported having nearly $7.4 million in the bank, compared with $1.2 million for Newsom.

Clinton is a widely popular figure among California's Democratic rank-and-file, and he has strong relationships in the Hollywood fundraising community.

"It's all about money," said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.

Clinton won't shift many primary votes but "what it will do is convince some California high rollers to open their checkbooks. It's a much needed boost at a time when Jerry Brown is ahead in the polls."

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