Last updated on March 30th, 2021 at 12:55 pm
[To read the author’s follow-up to this piece, click here. – Ed.]
In a blockbuster media report, the Los Cerritos News in California has reported that California Governor Gavin Newsom is having a sexual affair with a high-ranking member of his staff. Newsom is married to a woman he calls the “First Partner,” Jennifer Siebel, and the couple has four children. Citing anonymous sources, the news outlet said “many of Newsom’s other high-ranking staffers are aware of the relationship, and are ready to jump ship.”
The woman at the center of the emerging scandal, Lindsey Cobia, was recently promoted and given additional duties in the office. She is presently Deputy Chief of Staff. According to her LinkedIn profile, Cobia and Newsom have known each other since at least 2015. Cobia was Deputy Campaign Manager for Newsom’s successful bid for governor. She also was the Campaign Manager for a 2016 ballot proposition that Newsom championed to ban so-called high-capacity gun magazines and require Californians to register with the state before purchasing ammunition. (The ballot proposition was later declared to be unconstitutional.) Cobia’s profile on Facebook indicates that she got married in 2017 but it is not known if she is still a married woman.
The emerging scandal could not come at a worse time for Governor Newsom. Last week, backers of a statewide Recall effort submitted more than 2.1 million signatures to force an election later this year that could result in Newsom’s removal from office. Most observers believe that the Recall will easily qualify for the ballot. In a Recall election, voters consider two questions. First, whether Governor Newsom should be recalled (removed) from office. Second, they select a candidate to take over as governor should the Recall question prevail. Newsom is prohibited under California’s constitution from running in the Recall election to succeed himself.
The Los Cerritos News report addressed this by saying, “this could be the last straw between voters and Newsom.”
Governor Newsom has established a pattern and practice of engaging in inappropriate sexual relationships with members of his staff. As Mayor of San Francisco in 2007, Newsom was caught having an affair with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, his Appointments Secretary. To add to the tawdriness of the affair, the woman was the wife of Newsom’s Campaign Manager, who subsequently quit the campaign.
Newsom survived the scandal by publicly apologizing, assuring voters that he had learned his lessons, and promising that he would get treatment to deal with “problems with alcohol.” The incident played a role in his 2018 gubernatorial campaign when an independent committee opposed to Newsom’s election ran a statewide television ad reminding voters of the affair. Once again, Newsom said that he deeply regretted his actions and promised that he had learned his lesson. However, Newsom was forced to admit that he never did receive professional help to address his self-described alcohol problems.
The current scandal also raises serious legal questions about whether Newsom has engaged in sexual harassment. California law has strict standards to protect employees from sexual advances from those who exercise control or influence over them in the workplace. As Governor, Newsom has direct control over Cobia’s work in his office. That fact that she was rewarded with expanded duties and an apparent promotion raises serious questions about the relationship.
Sexual harassment implications were also raised during reporting of the 2007 affair and came up again during Newsom’s 2018 campaign for governor in the midst of a host of sexual scandals that rocked the state capitol, resulting in several legislators resigning from office. However, the woman in question, who has remarried and now goes by the name Ruby Rippey-Gibney told the media that though the affair with Newsom ruined her professional and home life, she did not consider it to be sexual harassment.
The Newsom Recall effort was fueled by citizen outrage that he was issuing orders to restrict the lives of average Californians but ignoring those orders himself. For example, he effectively shut down in-person public education in the state but paid to have his own children educated in their expensive private school. He prohibited people from gathering with more than a handful of other people at one time, requiring them to wear masks when doing so, but then was caught attending a lavish party with lobbyists at an expensive Napa Valley restaurant with a large crowd and no masks.
This is a breaking news story. We will update the report with further developments as warranted.