Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer Sees Newsom Rematch

?Url=Https%3A%2F%2Fcalifornia Times Photos 1Staff 828514 Kevin Faulconer Campaign Event 9 Brv

Kevin Faulconer looked like any other tourist when he recently paused in the middle of Market Street to snap a photo of the city’s ornate Ferry Building.

One minute you’re sitting in living rooms all over California launching your candidacy for governor. The next moment you’re just a guy in an Oxford shirt and a blue blazer, rolling your roller bag unnoticed along the main trunk of San Francisco.

There was a time, not long ago, when Faulconer was the shining hope of swaying California Republicans. As the moderate, policy-oriented, non-scary mayor of San Diego, he seemed perfectly suited to restore the GOP’s troublesome image, able to win enough Democratic and independent support to break the Democrats’ long-standing stranglehold on Sacramento.

If you squint, you might even spot Pete Wilson, another former San Diego Republican mayor who followed that centrist path to Washington and Sacramento.

Thereafter Faulconer hugged President Trump, jumped into the September recall election against Governor Gavin Newsom and began hanging out with the likes of Devin Nunes and others in the mafia wing of the Republican Party.

And then, when radio flamethrower Larry Elder entered the race and cornered the MAGA market, Faulconer seemed once again to be the problem-solving voice of two-pronged reason that had served him so well during his two terms in San Diego.

The result, after all that lugging back and forth, was a weak 8% in his bid to replace Newsom.

So, of course, Faulconer is thinking of running again and challenging the Democratic governor in California’s regularly scheduled 2022 elections.

“I believe the foundations of the state need to be changed,” Faulconer said over a black coffee in one of San Francisco’s designer java empires, referring to the homelessness, crime and indecent housing costs that plague California. “In my opinion, we didn’t get much of it in the recalls.”

Blame John Cox, the perennial GOP candidate, and that poor bear he was transporting across the state. Or Caitlyn Jenner and her unfortunate vanity campaign. Or YouTube pitchman Kevin Paffrath. Or blame the media. (That’s always a popular go-to.)

At some point, Faulconer said, the campaign became all spectacle and no substance.

“The circus atmosphere it turned into didn’t lend itself to an honest policy debate,” he lamented, though — with praise — tried Faulconer. He released well thought out proposals on taxes, homeless and overhauling the state scandal-plagued employment development department, among other things.

But Elder soon dominated the race. As Faulconer sees it, Elder Newsom threw a lifeline by nationalizing the recall elections, turning the campaign from a referendum on the incumbent — a vote the governor may have lost — to a choice between Newsom and an enthusiastic stand-in for the deeply despised Trump.

Faulconer, for his part, is not at all interested in talking about the ex-president.

After shunning the reality TV star and serial fraudster in 2016 — “his divisive rhetoric is unacceptable and I just could never support him” — Faulconer did just that in 2020, saying he believed Trump’s re-election would be best for the economy.

He echoed that sentiment over coffee, but soon made it clear that if he competes again next year, he will remain “laser-focused” on California and its problems, as opposed to “the national stuff.”

So if Trump decided to come to California to campaign on his behalf, would Faulconer welcome him to the state? Wouldn’t say.

What about the riots of January 6 and Trump’s continued attempts to undermine democracy? I’m not going there.

Would Faulconer Support Trump If? will he become president again in 2024? passage.

There is now a working model for that kind of laser-targeted Trump avoidance. In Virginia, Republican businessman Glenn youngkin deftly bypassed the former president while managing not to antagonize Trump or his supporters. He will be sworn in as governor in January.

But youngkin had significant advantages over Faulconer. Virginia, while democratically leaning, isn’t nearly as blue as California. Youngkin also had a clear shot against Democrat Terry McAuliffe after winning the Republican nomination in an unusually ranked election process that knocked out the Trumpiest of the GOP candidates.

“You get one-on-one, it’s a whole different game,” Faulconer said, talking repeatedly about how he would stack up against Newsom if they made it out of California’s top two in June.

True enough.

But there is absolutely no guarantee that, should Faulconer flee, he will have the GOP field to himself. An opponent to his right would again force him to move away from the center or risk antagonizing conservative Republicans. Hence the problem facing every GOP candidate today: how to appease the party base without deterring the much larger number of Democratic and independent voters.

Faulconer, 54, said he would make a decision on the governor’s 2022 race sometime early next year. When asked if a factor was whether he saw the campaign turning into a repeat — bears, celebrities, circus — of the political burlesque of the recall, he replied, “Yes, of course.” Faulconer grinned.

Why experience that again? Better a private individual than a double loser.

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