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It's no rivalry akin to the Giants and Dodgers. But San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom swooped into the potent Los Angeles media market last week and won a surge of coverage in airwaves and real estate typically dominated by L.A. mayor and potential gubernatorial rival Antonio Villaraigosa.

Newsom attracted a horde of news cameras and and dealt out a dozen interviews on St. Patrick's Day at a town hall meeting attended by 600 people in Santa Monica. "He turned out more people in Santa Monica than any of the Irish bars - and no green beer was required," said Newsom's exploratory campaign manager Eric Jaye.

Newsom was also feted at an L.A. fundraiser at the Pacific Palisades home of NBC-Universal exec Ben Silverman.

His reach into the Los Angeles market, where Villaraigosa enjoys overwhelming name recognition and strong Latino voter support, may be a key test for Newsom.

In a recent Field Poll of early voter preferences for the 2010 gubernatorial race, Newsom ranked third with 16 percent support to 22 percent for Villaraigosa and 26 percent for Attorney General and former Gov. Jerry Brown.

Villaraigosa, who was re-elected mayor against a field of unknowns March 3, has made no secret he is considering saddling up anew for a gubernatorial bid. But political observers say his 55 percent vote margin suggests that his home turf voters could be lacking in enthusiasm. Newsom won re-election in San Francisco in 2007 with 73 percent support.

For now, Jaye is playing down any Nor-Cal vs. So-Cal mayoral rivalry for the state's top job.

"Mayor Newsom is conducting conversations in counties all around California, including Los Angeles," Jaye said. "Mayor Villaraigosa is welcome to campaign in San Francisco if he gets into the race. It's all part of California."


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