Former San Diego Mayor Faulconer Jumps Into Race for California Governor

Republican Kevin Faulconer wants to “shake up” Sacramento and replace Gavin Newsom in 2022.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, pictured in 2017, announced his 2022 bid for California Governor Monday. (Bianca Bruno/CNS)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced his 2022 bid for California Governor on Monday, joining another Republican businessman as challengers to incumbent Democrat Gavin Newsom.

After nearly six years as mayor, the Republican and outspoken Newsom critic has his eyes on the executive arm of the nation’s largest state.

“What happened to the promise of California? On Gavin Newsom’s watch our schools are failing, homelessness is skyrocketing, small businesses are closing, and jobs are disappearing,” Faulconer said on a new campaign website. “I know we can restore California’s promise of freedom, equality, and opportunity. That’s our promise.”

Long considered a likely GOP candidate, the California native has ramped up his criticism of Newson after leaving the mayoral office last December.

Faulconer has publicly supported the ongoing effort to recall Newsom and blasted the governor for attending a dinner at a swanky Napa restaurant in violation of the state’s pandemic rules. He’s also complained about state-mandated school and business closures and the state’s troubled vaccine rollout. 

The 36th mayor of San Diego, who voted for Donald Trump in 2020, is positioning himself as a political outsider and the cure to Newsom’s “chaotic pandemic response.” During his tenure, Faulconer was one of the few Republicans to lead a major American city and his website credits the mayor with rescuing California’s second largest city from “the brink of bankruptcy.”

“Kevin isn’t a Sacramento insider or wealthy multi-millionaire,” the website states. “He has earned a reputation for returning ethics and integrity to public service and putting people above politics by focusing on the issues that matter to Californians.”

Considered a moderate Republican, Faulconer made housing affordability and supply a major focus during his two terms and supported efforts to update zoning laws. He also helped spur new homeless shelters following a deadly hepatitis A outbreak in 2017 that killed dozens and forced then-Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency. Faulconer, 54, also adopted the city’s first-ever climate action plan, which outlined emissions reductions and job creation goals.

Though he was elected twice, Faulconer was rebuffed at the ballot box throughout his tenure.

Despite Faulconer’s endorsement, voters in 2016 rejected a measure that would have raised hotel taxes to help build the San Diego Chargers a new stadium. He also got behind several unsuccessful efforts to raise taxes to fund the expansion of the city’s convention center as well as street repairs and homelessness programs.

Faulconer and businessman John Cox, who is running for governor again after losing to Newsom in a landslide in 2018, are looking to become the first Republican to win statewide office in California in almost 15 years.

Though Newsom has been widely criticized for the state’s failings during the pandemic, such as rampant unemployment assistance fraud and lagging Covid-19 vaccination pace, registered Democrats still outnumber Republicans in the Golden State by a nearly 2–1 margin. In addition, Newsom won office by a massive 62%–38% margin in the 2018 runoff and still maintains strong approval numbers in recent polls.

Once he hits the campaign trail, Faulconer will likely be peppered relentlessly about his decision to vote for Trump last year. Trump lost the Golden State to Joe Biden by almost 30% points and over 5 million votes. 

While California uses a top-two system for gubernatorial elections, there’s a chance both Faulconer and Cox could make the ballot.

Newsom is currently the focus of a Republican-sponsored recall effort and backers say they’ve already collected more than 1 million signatures. If the campaign can collect the required 1.5 million verified signatures by mid-March, both say they will take their chances in the statewide recall election.

In an announcement video, Faulconer accuses Newsom of botching the vaccine rollout, failing to combat homelessness and of “partying with lobbysists” during coronavirus lockdowns.

“I know we can clean up California,” he promises. “We can kick the insiders out. Bring the outsiders in.”

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