What does it take to shock San Francisco?
Most of the country already thinks of San Francisco as a den of iniquity and licentiousness, dedicated to self-indulgence and heedless of the consequences. The political leadership of the city, specifically Gavin Newsom, hizzoner da mare, is doing what it can to confirm the judgment.
Today, the San Francisco Chronicle’s ace investigative reporters Phi Matier and Andrew Ross are joined by Cecelia M. Vega in exposing a sex scandal that might actually succeed in generating some disgust among the city’s voting public.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s re-election campaign manager resigned Wednesday after confronting the mayor about an affair Newsom had with his wife while she worked in the mayor’s office, City Hall sources said.
Alex Tourk, 39, who served as Newsom’s deputy chief of staff before becoming his campaign manager in September, confronted the mayor after his wife, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, told him of the affair as part of a rehabilitation program she had been undergoing for substance abuse, said the sources, who had direct knowledge of Wednesday’s meeting.
Rippey-Tourk, 34, was the mayor’s appointments secretary from the start of his administration in 2004 until last spring. She told her husband that the affair with Newsom was short-lived and happened about a year and a half ago, while the mayor was undergoing a divorce from his then-wife, Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, said the sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified.
Alex Tourk “confronted the mayor on the issue this afternoon, expressed his feeling about the situation in an honest and pointed way, and resigned,” said one source close to Tourk and his wife.
I confess that my gut reaction to Gavin Newsom has always been on of mistrust of what seemed to me to be an obvious phony. A friend who has built a very successful business in San Francisco has been known to be cordial with him, and insisted he was a decent man. But I was also disconcerted by the public displays that both he and his ex-wife Kimberly made of their sexual involvement, slyly hinting at sexual gymnastics and oral sex. Too much information. Both members of the failed marriage were physically fit, well-dressed, and possessed model-like poise. That such an image of latent eroticism required further strengthening in their minds suggested to me an insatiable appetite for something best left unexplored.
In addition to being his ex-campaign manager, Tourk is also an old (ex- presumably) friend of the mayor. So what kind of man has an affair with an old friend’s wife, keeps it secret, and then entrusts his campaign to same cuckolded buddy?
My gut tells me it is a man who thrills at getting away with stuff. A stress junkie who thinks he is smarter, luckier, handsomer, and more deserving than everybody else, including people who have befriended and helped him along. Someone who wants to live on the edge because ordinary life is too boring. Very San Francisco but not what one should want in a public servant with great responsibility for the safety and welfare of hundreds of thousands.
There are certainly lower forms of human life. Politics attracts more than its share of monstrous people. But screwing around with the spouses of friends is awfully low, and something to which ordinary people of all sorts of sexual inclination can relate.
Newsom is up for re-election in the November. He will be looking for a new campaign manager. The question for San Franciscans is whether or not he will be looking for a new career.
Polls have consistently shown Newsom’s approval ratings among city voters topping 70 percent, unusually high for a politician in his fourth year in office. Although his relations with the Board of Supervisors have deteriorated over the past year, no competing candidate has emerged for this year’s mayoral race.
One person who says he intends to challenge Newsom, former Supervisor Tony Hall, said Wednesday night that he hoped news of the affair was not true. But if it is, he said, “the city deserves much better than what it’s getting.”
In San Francisco, all politics is local, and the local political establishment is highly incestuous. This diagram from the Fog City Journal portrays some of the family and financial connections between Speaker of the House Pelosi and Newsom. They are related by virtue of marriage.
One can only assume that in her role as a grandmother, Speaker Pelosi will decry the concept of adultery. But will she urge Newsom to retire from politics? I doubt it very much.