At a press conference in Redding on Tuesday, Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) announced that he would be running for Governor of California this year.
Dahle, a graduate of Big Valley High School in Bieber and the husband of Assemblywoman Megan Dahle (R-Bieber), was a full-time farmer before first being elected to the Lassen County Board of Supervisors in 1996 at the age of 31. After 16 years as Supervisor, he moved on to the Assembly, defeating Redding City Councilman Rick Bosetti in 2012. While there, Dahle quickly became known as a farming and forest fire protection advocate, as well as a lawmaker who fought to bring more infrastructure like broadband internet into more rural areas. Some bills, such as 2013’s AB 744, which began California’s first major forest fire fuel reduction program, proved to be especially foresightful due to more major forest fires hitting the state in only five years time.
Dahle also became known as a Republican who was a strong supporter of the GOP but also worked across the aisle to get bills passed. This goodwill led to Dahle becoming the frontrunner in the 2019 special state Senate election leading to his surprising victory over Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) in what had been dubbed a “rural vs. urban” matchup. Later that year, his wife was elected in a special election to take his old Assembly seat, leading the Dahle’s to control two of the most powerful legislative seats in North State California.
However, frustration over Governor Gavin Newsom’s term as Governor and how he has handled multiple issues, as well as a relatively quiet GOP field this Gubernatorial election, led Dahle to enter the race on Tuesday. Senator Dahle, while relatively unknown outside of Northern California, fully embraced his underdog status in his speech and went after state Democratic leadership as the source of many of California’s current problems.
Dahle began his speech by noting his career as a farmer and going through his previous elected positions before going into multiple issues that he said said California is failing at. In particular, Dahle went after Democratic leaders in the state for allowing crime to increase throughout the state through botched criminal justice reforms, noting a 30% increase in homicides. Dahle also went after a worsening homeless crisis and the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, calling the Democratic leadership corrupt.
“I am not some smooth-talking wine salesman from San Francisco. I’m a farmer from Bieber,” said Dahle on Tuesday. “I am not willing to leave this broken California to my children, your children and our grandchildren. I cannot stand aside and watch corrupt one-party rule continue to poison the future of our state.”
Newsom campaign dismisses Dahle’s Gubernatorial bid
Representatives of Newsom, however, dismissed Dahle’s entrance into the race on Tuesday and painted him as a far-right Republican. They also praised many of Governor Newsom’s decisions and pointed out multiple budget surpluses.
“Dahle is a pro-Trump Republican who will try to stop the progress the governor is making steering California through the pandemic,” said Newsom political consultant Dan Newman on Tuesday. “The governor will stay focused on solutions — leading on COVID, schools, healthcare, housing and climate — all with historic budget surpluses. And just like last year, voters will have a clear choice.”
Newsom campaign spokesman Nathan Click also added that “Dahle’s announcement shows a sad state of affairs for the California Republican Party.”
Many political experts took a more neutral stance on Dahle entering the race on Tuesday, pointing out that Dahle would need to pick up significant support from the rest of the state and step up fundraising if he wants to win the primary in June.
“Senator Dahle has experience, but he’s only a name above the Bay Area and Sacramento,” explained former lobbyist Harry Schultz in a Globe interview. “He’s not from the Bay or LA, which would likely win many rural voters over, but you need more than that and the greater Redding area behind you if you’re going to win the state.”
“If he does win in June, the smart thing would be to point out how long he has been trying to pass forest fire legislation in the dog days of August when fires start erupting. A few major forest fires under Newsom’s eye this year and Dahle would have something big to work with. Newsom has a lot going for him, like general support over how he has been handling COVID and praise for the surpluses and sending out COVID checks. But, another major thing like maskgate during his campaign? Who knows.”
“For any Republican, becoming Governor in 2022 is an uphill battle, especially as we saw how the recall went last year.”
Other major declared candidates, such as former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and 2018 GOP Gubernatorial candidate John Cox, are expected to launch campaigns soon.
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