Early last month, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer established a political committee to begin raising money for a possible run for governor, kicking off what could be a tumultuous year in California politics as Gov. Gavin Newsom faces the threat of a recall election.
In a brief statement on Twitter, the moderate Republican who served two terms in the Democratic-leaning city said there is "no better way to ring in the new year than taking the first step in turning around California."
On Feb. 1, Faulconer made it official, with the slogan, "It's Time for the California Comeback."
"The 36th mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, is running for governor to restore California’s promise of liberty, equality and opportunity," the campaign stated on the new candidate's website. "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."
Possible Recall Election
The move comes as supporters of the possible recall election aimed at the Newsom continue gathering the nearly 1.5 million petition signatures needed to qualify the proposal for the ballot. They have until mid-March to hit the required threshold.
A Republican hasn't won a statewide election in the heavily Democratic state since 2006, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in California by nearly 2-to-1. But a recall election could attract dozens of candidates who would cut up the vote and lower the percentage needed to win, a scenario that could provide an opening for a Republican candidate in the Democratic-dominated state.
Newsom political strategist Dan Newman said in January that the governor remained focused on the coronavirus crisis and distributing vaccines while “Faulconer and other [President Donald] Trump supporters want California taxpayers to waste $100 million on a special-election redo,” shortly before Newsom is expected to seek a second term in 2022.
If the recall qualifies, Newsom would be forced to fend off rivals in the midst of a pandemic that has cost the state millions of jobs and upended daily life for nearly 40 million residents. State rules are not specific on when the election would occur.
Newsom, who was elected in a 2018 landslide with 62% of the vote, has entered a difficult stretch in his tenure.
Last spring, Newsom received wide praise for his aggressive approach to the coronavirus outbreak, when he issued the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order. But there has been growing public unrest over subsequent health orders that closed schools and businesses, and investigations continue into a massive unemployment benefits fraud scandal.
Faulconer's San Diego Legacy
Faulconer's stint as San Diego mayor was filled with challenges -- from a Hepatitis A outbreak among the homeless to a failed convention center expansion to, let's not forget, the loss of the Chargers. But as his six-year tenure came to a close in December, the Republican leader said he was proud of what has come from it.
"As I look back … I’m proud of the work we’ve done on homelessness -- moving that forward, helping people -- what we’ve been doing on infrastructure, street repair," Faulconer said on NBC 7's Politically Speaking. "It’s been nonstop, but I'll tell you, it’s been a real honor and privilege to serve as mayor of this great city."
The termed-out Republican was elected mayor in February 2014, beating out Democratic candidate David Alverez in a special election to fill the void left by then-mayor Bob Filner, who resigned in August 2013 after sexual harassment allegations. Filner later pleaded guilty to charges of false imprisonment and battery.
Attorney Cory Briggs, a Faulconer critic, called his stint as mayor an "unmitigated disaster."
"Think about the water department, all the property deals gone bad (not just 101 Ash), the hepatitis deaths and the spike in homelessness," Briggs told NBC 7 in December. "The city is in substantially worse financial shape than when he arrived, and that’d be true even if COVID-19 had never come."
Faulconer told NBC 7 in December that there were moments in his career that didn't go as expected but, overall, he reflected positively on his time in office.
"You always look back at things and say, ‘I wish I would have done something different or earlier,' " Faulconer said. "As I mentioned earlier, it’s a real ... honor to serve in this job and to surround myself with a team of professionals who want the best for this city."
Previously, Faulconer served on the San Diego City Council from 2005-13.