Former San Diego Mayor and candidate in the 2021 Governor recall election Kevin Faulconer announced on Thursday that he would not be running in the 2022 Gubernatorial election.
Faulconer, who was widely seen as the foremost moderate Republican in the race this year, got his start in politics by working in public affairs and public relations positions for non-profit and political groups following his graduation from San Diego State University in 1985. While he also got his feet wet in politics by working on the gubernatorial campaigns of Pete Wilson in the 1990’s, Faulconer’s first elected position came in 2006 with a successful San Diego City Council position. After serving as a Councilman for 8 years, Faulconer was elected in 2014 as Mayor in a special election following the resignation of former Mayor Bob Filner.
While Faulconer made news in the ensuing years by vetoing minimum wage increases, attempting to stop the move of the San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles, and mitigating a large Hepatitis A outbreak in 2016, he cemented his moderate Republican reputation for his effort to reduce homelessness in the city by going after Nimby laws and movements that had previously restricted new housing. Faulconer also had unusual support coming from LGBT groups and pro-choice groups due to his stances.
While reelected once in 2016, Faulconer was not allowed to run again in 2020 due to term limits. Faulconer instead shifted his focus to the 2021 California recall race, entering the race that February. While he and 2018 GOP Gubernatorial candidate John Cox quickly became the top candidates in the race, they lost that distinction later that year when national radio talk show host Larry Elder entered the race. In September, Governor Newsom defeated the recall, with Faulconer coming in third with 590,346 votes, or 8% of the vote, in the replacement question. This put him well behind Elder with 48.6% of the vote and Democratic candidate Kevin Paffrath with 9.6%.
Following the race, Faulconer kept up his bid for the 2022 race but never formally declared. Following Elder announcing that he would not be running for Governor this year in January, Faulconer was widely considered one of the frontrunners for the primary in June. However, Faulconer ended that the day before the filing deadline for the race on Thursday, declining to run. In a statement made Thursday night, Faulconer said that the time was not right for him to run again, citing the hectic nature of last’s recall race and the current political climate as major factors in his decision.
“It’s harder than ever before to get ahead in California,” Faulconer said on Thursday. “We all know it, which is why a majority of Californians believe our state is on the wrong track. I want to run for governor to change this, but the lingering effects of the circus that unfolded toward the end of last year’s recall make it extremely difficult to relaunch the type of campaign I would want to run.”
“I appreciate all the encouragement I’ve received, but I know that now is not the right time. California’s problems are solvable. Until we fix our state at the top, I know that we can continue to make progress city by city, community by community. Thank you all.”
The last of the major 2021 recall candidates drops out
Political experts noted on Friday that Faulconer’s bowing out on Thursday means that no major 2021 recall candidate will refacing Newsom this year.
“It’s all new faces now,” said former lobbyist Harry Schultz in a Globe interview on Friday. “Elder, Cox, and Ose all dropped out before. Jenner has not made a peep about this. And Kiley? He’s running for Congress already. Besides [Senator Brian] Dahle [(R-Bieber)], there is no one coming into the Primary, at least as of late morning Friday, who has had previous elected office. Not many want to face Newsom this year. Plus, the GOP is shifting money to Congressional races and more local and state elections in California.”
“They think the red tide can get some more Congressional seats and eat away at least a little at the state level majority in both houses due to all the problems the country and the state is facing this year. In particular, the public losing confidence in Joe Biden, a weakened economy, and most critically for Californian elections, a huge surge in crime caused by, at least in part, progressive laws on crime taking root there. Some early results, like the San Francisco School board recall, have been major red flags for Democrats that change is coming.”
“As for Faulconer, you can tell that he carefully weighed the options on this one. He’s a former PR guy and was a part of numerous campaigns stretching back decades. If anyone knows how to read the tea leaves, it’s him. And it just didn’t make sense to run now. The GOP still want one of their guys in the race, especially if a major scandal hits Newsom or they manage to get a footing. But it’s also not the last we heard of Faulconer. It sounds like there may be something in the works in 2024, maybe sooner. Smart move would be to head a non-profit or something while he works out his next political move to stay active and in the public eye.”
Currently, only four Republicans are set to be on the Primary ballot in June. Senator Dahle, the current front runner, is joined by former Pasadena Mayoral candidate Major Williams, Activist Laura Smith, and Anthony Trimino. San Francisco investigative reporter, and author of “San Fransicko,” Michael Shellenberger announced Friday morning he is running for Governor. Other candidates are likely to file before the Friday deadline. Governor Newsom is all but guaranteed one of the two Gubernatorial election slots in November stemming from the results of the primary in June.