The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Kimberly Guilfoyle trashed California. She goes way back with two of the state’s most important Democrats.

Kimberly Guilfoyle spoke on socialism, Joe Biden and her home state of California on the opening night of the Republican National Convention on Aug. 24. (Video: The Washington Post)
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Early in her speech at the Republican National Convention on Monday night, Kimberly Guilfoyle used her home state as an ominous warning.

“If you want to see the socialist Biden-Harris future for our country,” she cautioned, “just take a look at California."

What she recalled as a “place of immense wealth, immeasurable innovation [and] an immaculate environment” had been razed by Democrats “into a land of discarded heroin needles in parks, riots in streets and blackouts in homes,” she said.

It is perhaps no coincidence that Guilfoyle, a prosecutor-turned-Fox News host-turned Trump surrogate, has long, contentious ties with two of that state’s most prominent Democrats: Gov. Gavin Newsom, her ex-husband, and Sen. Kamala D. Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee and her former office rival.

During an opening night filled with no shortage of noteworthy speakers, few seemed to draw quite as much attention — or yell out their words quite as loudly — as Guilfoyle, a top fundraising official for the Trump campaign and Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend.

Stephen Colbert joked on “The Late Show” that the unusually shouty address was the first time he ever had to turn the volume down on C-SPAN. Journalists for right-wing publications noted that her booming voice seemed more appropriate for a rally, not an empty ballroom broadcast live on television.

“I heard Kim Guilfoyle’s speech and my TV’s not even on,” wrote Chuck Ross, a reporter at the Daily Caller.

Her message was a far cry from her time as a highflying government attorney in California.

As The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison and Dan Zak reported in 2018, Guilfoyle was born in San Francisco to an Irish father and a Puerto Rican mother. (At the convention, Guilfoyle introduced herself as a first-generation American and suggested her mother was an immigrant, even though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.)

Kimberly Guilfoyle was once half of a liberal power couple. Now she’s basically a Trump.

After law school, she landed a job in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office but was quickly let go by a new district attorney. After moving to Los Angeles to serve as a prosecutor there, she made a bid in 2000 to return to her former workplace.

But as Guilfoyle tells it, there was one obstacle in her way: a young assistant district attorney named Kamala D. Harris.

“The bottom line is she didn’t want me there,” Guilfoyle told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2003. “She called me and said basically … that I should have gone through her if I wanted to return to the D.A.’s office — and that there was no money to hire me."

Harris, however, had a very different recollection of that phone call. In an interview with the Chronicle, the future vice-presidential candidate said she had in fact called Guilfoyle to offer her support.

“I never discouraged her from joining the office,” said Harris, then in the middle of a campaign for San Francisco district attorney. “I never suggested to her there wasn’t a job for her in the San Francisco D.A.'s office — of that, I’m very clear.”

Guilfoyle did get the job, and soon — in between suing robbers and arsonists — her buzzing social life earned her a media moniker as “the babe of the San Francisco bar,” The Post reported.

A big part of that reputation was her high-profile relationship with Newsom, then serving on the city’s board of supervisors. The couple had been introduced at a political fundraiser by his father, a retired court of appeals judge, and her father was then pulled into Newsom’s inner political circle. (Her speech on Monday only mentioned the elder Guilfoyle’s “pursuit of the American Dream.”)

In 2001, the young couple’s wedding was declared “the social event of the year,” and when Newsom launched a campaign for mayor, she gladly left her job to join the campaign. After all, she pointed out, it was his interest in public service that helped win her over.

“He had a keen mind in terms of the political issues of the time,” Guilfoyle said during a joint interview with Newsom on “Charlie Rose” in 2004, two years before the couple divorced. “I knew that he had the vision, and the discipline, and as it turns out the courage to be in politics and do the right thing.”

More than 15 years later, she told millions of viewers that her ex-husband’s policies in Sacramento were akin to those being implemented in Havana and Caracas.

“Rioters must not be allowed to destroy our cities,” Guilfoyle proclaimed on TV. “Human, sex, drug traffickers should not be allowed to cross our border. The same socialist policies which destroyed places like Cuba and Venezuela must not take root in our cities and our schools.”

The fact that she singled out the state governed by Newsom was not lost on many Twitter users, who flooded the platform with images from a 2004 Harper’s Bazaar story that called the couple “The New Kennedys.”

Neither Harris nor Newsom, who is leading the state’s response to several blazing wildfires in Northern California, commented publicly on Monday night about Guilfoyle’s criticism of her home state.

Guilfoyle, though, seemed to have addressed her sharp rightward shift years ago.

As she told The Post in 2018, “I have fully recovered from San Francisco."