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Bill Clinton supports Gavin Newsom for California governor

September 15, 2009 |  3:29 pm

Seventeen years after Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown clashed in the 1992 race for the White House, the former president made clear today that bygones will not be bygones in the 2010 campaign for California governor: Clinton signed on to support Brown rival Gavin Newsom in the Democratic primary.

It is highly unusual – perhaps unprecedented, according to the San Francisco mayor’s campaign – for a former president to take sides in a California gubernatorial primary. But the bad blood between Clinton and Brown, now state attorney general, runs deep, much as Newsom would like Californians to believe that Clinton’s choice is based on merit alone.

“This is not some kind of payback on Bill Clinton’s part,” Newsom strategist Garry South said. “He doesn’t think that way.”

Tensions in the 1992 race for the Democratic presidential nomination peaked at a debate in Chicago, where Brown accused Clinton of “funneling money to his wife’s law firm for state business.”

“I don’t care what you say about me, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife,” Clinton snapped, shaking his finger at Brown. “You’re not worth being on the same platform as my wife.”

Clinton plans two stops with Newsom on Oct. 5 – a public event in East L.A. and a fundraiser in Los Angeles --  with details still to be worked out, South said.

Neither Clinton nor Brown, who has not yet formally entered the governor’s race, was immediately available for comment.

-- Michael Finnegan in Los Angeles