In retrospect, the fall of 2006 passed in a blur of supporting troops, granting subprime mortgages, and watching Borat, so one could be forgiven for missing a critical chapter: California Gov. Gavin Newsom, then the mayor of San Francisco, divorcing his wife of five years and taking up with a Republican teenager 20 years his junior, whom he escorted to the San Francisco Symphony after apparently disguising her age on Myspace.
These days, Newsom has recovered from an attempted recall, and gotten busy signing permits for offshore drilling. But at the time, the 38-year-old was half-way through his first term as the city’s 42nd mayor, the youngest person to hold the office in 100 years. Newsom had come up in the ‘90s running several hospitality businesses mostly funded by his father’s high school friend, Gordon Getty (net worth per Forbes: $2.1 billion). He’d pitched himself to voters as a social progressive with a gooey austerity core, and more or less delivered. Not long before he ordered San Francisco officials to approve marriage licenses for gay couples in February 2004 — a landmark move that precipitated the state policy (and subsequent ban via Proposition 8) four years later — he also shepherded a proposition to fund homeless services by slashing welfare so recipients couldn’t use the money for booze. The program, called “Care Not Cash,” angered activists so much they burned him in effigy.
But Newsom had campaigned on unity and succeeded in at least one respect: many of his constituents agreed he was handsome. Because 2006 was also a year of promiscuous blogging, this fact was well-documented in the informal internet. One mid-20s development director started a Blogspot dedicated to her crush on Newsom; she later covered him as a columnist for the Chronicle (asked by ABC News what she liked about the mayor, the blogger replied: “Other than the fact that he’s a flawlessly dressed, breathtaking man?”). Another blogstress, who ran a site called CityMama, coined a name for him: “Mayor McHottie.”
At the time, McHottie had been married to future Trump-thumper Kimberly Guilfoyle (now in a relationship with Donald Jr.), and their union was equal cause for public fawning. In 2004, Harper’s Bazaar ran a photo spread of the couple, dressed in evening wear and posed around Gordon and Ann Getty’s house — standing in their office, shooting pool in their parlor, lounging splayed on their living room rug. The headline called them “The New Kennedys,” though Guilfoyle occasionally struck a less Catholic tone (At a gay rights fundraiser in 2004, she reportedly said of Newsom: “Is he hot? Yeah. Is he hung? Yeah. Is he [she waved her hand to suggest bisexual]? Not unless you can give a better [she mimicked eating a banana] than me." She later claimed the pantomime had been exaggerated).
By 2005, the couple had filed for divorce, sending Newsom on a widely publicized single streak. He had already shown up in Paris Hilton’s “buddy list” during the 2004 hack of her Sidekick. Then, he had an affair with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, the wife of his former campaign manager, Alex Tourk — though it wouldn’t become public until the following year. Shortly after the divorce was finalized in 2006, Newsom went on a series of dates so well-known around San Francisco that the local outlet SFist held a poll of reader favorites.
Most notoriously, he dated CSI: Miami starlet and Scientologist Sofia Milos, appearing as her plus-one at a Church-sponsored event for the anti-psychiatry group, Citizens Commission for Human Rights. Later that fall, he went to the San Francisco Opera’s opening gala alongside Erin Brodie, the daughter of 49ers quarterback John Brodie, who’d recently appeared in the reality series “For Love or Money,” and then as “Miss October” in the “Sexiest Women of Reality TV” calendar.
It was in that climate that the papers first got wind of Newsom’s latest love interest: a former lacrosse player at Sonoma State University named Brittanie Mountz. That autumn, they’d met at Aqua, the then-trendy, since-closed restaurant once described as “a bastion of San Francisco power dining where execs make big decisions while eating small portions of fantastically prepared, sparklingly fresh seafood.” Nineteen-year-old Mountz worked there as a hostess. Newsom was about to turn 39.
In early September, Newsom brought Mountz to the opening gala of the San Francisco Symphony, a high-brow event news outlets likened to “what the Academy Awards are to Los Angeles, in terms of fashion,” where seats started at $1,600. According to SFGate, Newsom “play[ed] coy” about his date, “assign[ing her] various personas: from speechwriter to secretary, even sports writer.” Local newspapers later reported her hostess gig and day job as a model. They appeared again together a few weeks later at a black-tie dinner at the M.H. de Young Museum, and then at the opening of a new Westfield mall.
Male politicians have long loved younger women. As ABC wrote,“From Newt Gingrich to Bill Clinton, Nelson Rockefeller to John McCain, politicians of all stripes have upheld one of the country's not-so-proud traditions: romancing women almost half their age.” Nan Britton was 20 when she began her affair with Warren Harding, some 30 years her senior; Mimi Alford claims to have been 19 when she started a relationship with a 45-year-old JFK. Technically speaking, there is nothing wrong with dating a woman of legal age, even if she is one year over legal age. But it’s an inauspicious look for a person (man) in public office, especially one whose “strongest political asset,” as the San Francisco Chronicle wrote at the time, was his “squeaky-clean image.”
Presumably, Newsom’s camp realized this. Reporters noticed when the age on Mountz’ public Myspace page jumped from 19 to 26, shortly after she was linked to the mayor. Here’s The San Francisco Chronicle:
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's new squeeze, Brittanie Mountz, just turned 20 last month — and that raises a couple of questions about the couple's nights on the town. The biggest question is whether Mountz has been drinking, and it's been swirling since the pair made their first public appearance and walked down the red carpet together at the San Francisco Symphony in September.
At the time, Mountz had a Myspace page that said she was 19. It now says she's 26. But according to the Sonoma County registrar of voters, the Rohnert Park resident turned 20 on Sept. 17 — three weeks and two days before Newsom turned 39.
The age gap wasn’t so much a public concern, as the impression that Newsom had allowed his date to drink wine at the mall opening, when she couldn’t yet order a legal glass:
The photos had been posted on society photographer Drew Altizer's Web site [sic] this past week. After Chronicle City Hall reporter Cecilia Vega began asking whether Mountz had been drinking alcohol at an event where the mayor was present, the photos promptly came down...Whether Mountz was actually drinking alcohol at the shopping center opening remains a mystery.
At the time, Newsom’s spokesperson, Peter Ragone, claimed the mayor and Mountz had not attended the opening together. “Brittanie is a friend of the mayor's,” Ragone told the Chronicle. “They did not attend the Bloomingdale's event together. Obviously there has been some uncertainty about her age. However, given what The Chronicle has dug up on her, if she was in fact drinking, that is a mistake.” The Mayor would later claim that they’d “never even held hands.”
A “local paper editor,” talking to ABC, was more daming. “Everyone expects him to have this big political career, but he makes a lot of bad choices. [Newsom's ex-wife] Kim was always putting her foot in her mouth and now he's dating this girl who's barely out of college. He lets his hormones take over.”
For Newsom’s supporters, the more alarming detail came out when the Chronicle verified her age: she was a registered Republican. “How dare he?” one city official asked ABC at the time. “He knows how to pick ’em. You can count the young female Republicans in this town on one hand.” But the ordeal quickly became fuel for his detractors. In October, after Newsom teamed up with police unions to try and oust a San Francisco Supervisor named Chris Daly, the incumbent released an attack ad about the incident, per the Chronicle:
Daly's toughest punch is the one with a sock puppet representing Newsom and a bottle of PlumpJack wine [Newsom’s wine label] playing the mayor's 20-year-old gal pal, Brittanie Mountz, both of them looking down from their castle at the needy rabble below. The commercial cuts out with "Mountz" asking for a glass of wine.
As recently as 2018, when Newsom was running for California governor, opposing candidate Amanda Renteria attempted to leverage the affair as a #MeToo incident worthy of his resignation as lieutenant governor. “Newsom’s tenure as mayor was highlighted by a pattern of sexual misconduct in the workplace,” she wrote in a press release. “This included multiple sexual encounters with his appointments secretary [meaning Ruby Rippey-Tourk, the aforementioned wife of Newsom’s former campaign manager] and dating a 19-year-old teenager who was photographed consuming alcohol at a gala.” (Rippey-Tourk later rejected that their involvement had constituted misconduct; Mountz never commented).
Predictably though, it was Mountz who took most of the heat (See this Chronicle headline: “You Know You’re Stupid When Brittanie Mountz Is Thinking ‘What A Spaz’”). The pair had split by November of 2006, when Newsom was linked to his current wife, Jennifer Siebel. Mountz soon pivoted out of modeling and into journalism — a few months after their dates, she ran into Newsom and Siebel at the premiere of the Pursuit of Happyness. The Mayor was attending as a guest; Mountz was covering it for Benefit magazine. She apparently now works under a different name (Gawker has withheld it).
A year and change later, Newsom married Siebel at a ceremony in Montana, where he rode in on a horse to an audience including Nancy Pelosi, Gordon Getty, Huey Lewis, Charles Schwab, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Dianne Feinstein, and ex-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who flew to Montana on one of Google’s corporate jets to cover the ceremony for the Chronicle. It was themed “Out of Africa.” Newsom, Brown wrote, “looked just like Ronald Reagan.”
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