As second fiddles to top government officials go, Gavin Newsom is no Joe Biden. President Obama delegates important responsibilities to his colorfully candid veep. But California Gov. Jerry Brown's attitude toward Newsom, his lieutenant governor, seems to be:

"Are you still here?"

This was true from the start, perhaps because of how Newsom campaigned against Brown for governor. Then this year, he started bashing Brown's pet project, high-speed rail -- so if there was any chance of warmer relations, Newsom might as well have kicked Sutter the dog down the capitol steps.

Newsom's opponent this fall, likable conservative Ron Nehring, wouldn't get any cozier with Brown. The former state GOP chair's bootstrap life story is inspiring, but his social conservatism puts him out of step with much of California. If the only power a lieutenant really has is the bully pulpit, we would rather see Newsom in it. We recommend him.

Brown isn't the only one irked by Newsom's ambition and occasional arrogance. But Newsom also is very smart and thoughtful. It's a shame to waste his talent. Successes that might propel him in his next leap, probably for governor or U.S. senator, also could help California -- particularly in the area of economic development.


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The lieutenant governor chairs the state's economic development commission, and Newsom has done his best with it despite Brown's leaving some slots vacant. With the help of organizations such as the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Newsom conducted business summits around the state to assess needs. Rather than seeking the spotlight, he listened and learned. Participants were impressed.

His report suggests different regional strategies for economic growth, since Silicon Valley is in an alternate economic universe from Redding or Los Angeles. Tim Draper's fantasy of six Californias is loony, but different economies are just a fact.

Serving on the state university systems' boards, Newsom pushes our industrial-age model of higher education to adapt to economic realities. On K-12 schools, he's wrong on the Vergara decision; he doesn't think tenure after 18 months or layoffs based solely on seniority are a problem. But to his credit, he's meeting with the lawsuit's backer, Dave Welch, about how to improve poor schools.

He says he also has reached out to Vinod Khosla, hoping to directly negotiate access to Martins Beach. If he succeeds, send him to Gaza.

Newsom began the national culture shift on gay marriage as mayor of San Francisco 10 years ago. Look how far it's come. The man has courage. Not to mention the best wardrobe in Sacramento since Willie Brown left town. Re-elect him, and see what happens next.