Joanna Newsom’s Second Cousin, Twice Removed Elected Governor of California
California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, won a decisive victory over the Trump-supported Republican John Cox yesterday to become the state’s next governor. Newsom is a longtime fixture of West Coast politics, and his victory is not unexpected. Perhaps you know him for his time as mayor of San Francisco in the 2000s, for his early and strong gay marriage advocacy, or for the reputation he’s built since then as a sort of blandly charming liberal leader beloved by big donors in Hollywood and Silicon Valley, with some more recent semi-convincing moves to the left. Or perhaps you simply know him as a distant cousin of Joanna Newsom, the brilliant singer-songwriter and harpist.
Gavin, it turns out, is Joanna’s second cousin, twice removed, according to various sources including this news report about her marriage to Andy Samberg in 2013. To which we say: weird! And also, congratulations to the Newsom family! It’s not new news or anything, but it came across our feeds today in the wake of Gavin’s victory, and given the chasm between their public images—him the slick and shiny career political do-gooder with a haircut like sculpted marble, her the wildly adventurous artist with swirling 10-minute songs about love and death—we figured it was worth noting.
It turns out this isn’t even the first time their distant relation has even been mentioned in Spin. In an elliptical 2004 column, Dave Eggers compared Joanna’s artistic courage with Gavin’s decision to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in San Francisco that year, in violation of then-current state law. Prevailing wisdom at the time said that Gavin had tanked his own political future by standing by his principles, and Eggers’s column contains a passage about the marriages that’s funny to look back on now (emphasis ours):
Instead, after only a few months in office, Gavin decided he would make one of the boldest gestures in history toward equal—completely equal—rights for gays and lesbians. No one was asking him to challenge state law regarding gay marriage. In fact, in 2000 California passed a referendum clarifying that marriage could only exist between a man and a woman. But apparently Gavin woke up one day and decided to basically shoot his political future in the foot. The majority of Californians disagree with him on gay marriage, thus ruling out the possibility of Gavin ever winning a Senate seat or a governorship.
Maybe they’re not so different after all. Whatever their political persuasion, Californians can now take comfort at the easy six degrees of separation that are now possible between their governor and the roster of Drag City. Maybe there’s a cabinet positions somewhere for Jim O’Rourke.