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San Francisco mayor seeks alcohol treatment

Gavin Newsom, who last week acknowledged an affair with the wife of a longtime aide, said his decision won't affect his official duties.

February 06, 2007|John M. Glionna | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Mayor Gavin Newsom, who acknowledged last week that he had an affair with the wife of a longtime aide, announced Monday that he was seeking treatment for alcohol abuse.

In a statement issued by his office late Monday, he said that he would seek treatment at the Delancey Street Foundation but that it would not affect his duties as mayor.

"Upon reflection with friends and family this weekend, I have come to the conclusion that I will be a better person without alcohol in my life," Newsom, 39, said.

The mayor, who is seeking a second term in November, added that acknowledging his problem did not absolve him from responsibility. "My problems with alcohol are not an excuse for my personal lapses in judgment," he said in the statement.

On Thursday, Newsom delivered a brief and somber mea culpa at a packed news conference as City Hall employees and voters sought to absorb the revelation of his infidelity with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, the wife of former campaign manager Alex Tourk.

Newsom delivered his apology the day after Tourk resigned as manager of his reelection campaign.

Newsom's affair with Rippey-Tourk reportedly took place while he was splitting from his then-wife, attorney and television analyst Kimberly Guilfoyle. At the time, Rippey-Tourk was working for Newsom.

Newsom and Guilfoyle filed for divorce in January 2005.

The statement issued by Newsom's office said the mayor had informed his staff that "he had stopped drinking and that he was seeking professional assistance to support his decision."

The Delancey Street Foundation, founded in 1971, is a longtime San Francisco treatment center. It bills itself as a place that helps people -- including substance abusers and ex-felons -- rebuild their lives.

Critics and supporters alike wished the mayor well in his rehab.

"I sincerely wish Mr. Newsom the best of luck in his substance-abuse recovery process," said Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin. "The Board of Supervisors will continue to lead the city, rehab or no rehab."

Community activists said they would give Newsom the benefit of the doubt.

"We're very pleased to hear that the mayor ... is admitting that he has a problem," said Julian Davis, a spokesman for the San Francisco People's Organization, a coalition of labor and community groups. "We're very encouraged that he is going to take the opportunity to be the hands-on mayor he has not been to this point."

San Francisco pollster David Binder said it was too early to tell what effect Newsom's affair and his decision to seek treatment would have on voters.

"There are two ways they could look at this -- either that the mayor is owning up to his problems or that he's doing this for public relation purposes," he said.

"I think voters will try to be sympathetic."

john.glionna@latimes.com

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