The path to political supremacy is littered with plenty charred hulks of missteps, misstatements and missed opportunities.

And as he climbs the mountain towards the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento, Gavin Christopher Newsom appears to be vulnerable to the same kind of “whoops this is what I actually meant” that helped fell a Democratic man-who-would-be-king five years ago: John Forbes Kerry, who famously voted for the $87 billion to fund the war in Iraq — before he voted against it.

As he conducts his hybrid-SUV-stop tour around California to stump for Arnold’s job, Newsom has been sure to say one thing, especially in red-voting inland California: San Francisco balanced its budget and `”we didn’t raise taxes and we didn’t borrow [to do it]. Our bond rating went up in December as the state’s dropped.”

Newsom said this to media as recently as Wednesday.

So in January, increased fees “are all taxes,” but in July, a 41 percent increase in San Francisco fees means “we didn’t raise taxes.”Of course, Newsom’s balanced city budget does include hundreds of millions in new fees — fees on cigarette butts to autopsies to increased charges to use parks, parking meters and much else. Some among us consider these taxes — reports dealing with the “cigarette butt abatement fee” called it a tax — and it seems as recently as January, Gavin Newsom considered increased local fees taxes, too.

In January, as embedded above, the Contra Costa Times videotaped a Newsom 2010 campaign stop at a Concord, CA, senior center. An audience member asked Newsom if he has an economic plan to save state and local social programs.

“How many of you are paying less to park at a meter than you were five years ago?” Audience laughs, and Newsom responds, “Oh, I guess it’s gone up here, too. How many of you are paying less to reserve a place to play soccer, or to do a barbecue, or a rec facility?”

“Those are all taxes, and our taxes have gone through the roof.”

So in January, increased fees “are all taxes,” but in July, a 41 percent increase in San Francisco fees means “we didn’t raise taxes.”

The video closes with this Newsom remark: “The problem is, at the local level you don’t get to tax and you don’t borrow, so you find ways to raise revenue by increasing fees. We don’t call them taxes.”

We called and emailed Newsom Campaign HQ, in an effort to reconcile these seemingly disparate statements, but have yet to receive a response. We’ll let you know when we do.

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