Kevin Faulconer looked like any other tourist as he recently stopped in the middle of Market Street to take a photo of the city’s graceful Ferry Building.
Wait a minute, you’re in lounges all over California, running your bid for governor. Next up, you’re just a dude in an oxford shirt and blue blazer, sliding your roller bag unnoticed along the main San Francisco rod.
There was a time, not too long ago, when Faulconer was the brightest hope of defeating the Republicans in California. As a moderate, policy-oriented, and not scary mayor of San Diego, he seemed perfectly suited to remake the expensive image of the GOP, capable of gaining enough Democratic and Independent support to break Democrats’ long-standing stranglehold on Sacramento. .
Squint and you might even see Pete Wilson, another former Republican mayor of San Diego who took that centrist route to Washington and Sacramento.
Then Faulconer kissed President Trump, jumped into the September recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom, and began dating Devin Nunes and others in the Republican Party’s mafia wing.
And then, When radio flamethrower Larry Elder joined the race and cornered the MAGA market, Faulconer seemed to once again become the problem-solving voice of bipartisan reason that had served him so well during his two terms in San Diego.
The result, after all this back and forth, was a weak 8% in his candidacy to replace Newsom.
So naturally, Faulconer plans to run again, challenging the Democratic governor in the 2022 California regular election.
âI think the fundamentals of the state need to change,â said Faulconer over black coffee at one of San Francisco’s designer java stores, citing homelessness, crime and indecent housing costs that afflict California. âIn my opinion, we didn’t hit a lot in the recall elections. “
Blame it on John Cox, the eternal GOP candidate, and that poor bear he’s carted around the state. Or Caitlyn Jenner and her unfortunate vanity campaign. Or YouTube pitchman Kevin Paffrath. Or blame the media. (It’s still a must-have.)
At one point, Faulconer said, the campaign became all show and no substance.
âThe circus atmosphere he transformed into did not lend itself to honest political debate,â he lamented, however – credit is due – Faulconer tried. He released well-thought-out proposals on taxes, homelessness, and the overhaul of the scandal-ridden state employment development department, among others.
But Elder soon came to dominate the race. According to Faulconer, Elder threw a lifeline for Newsom by nationalizing the recall election, turning the campaign from a referendum on the incumbent president – a vote the governor might have lost – to a choice between Newsom and a enthusiastic replacement for deeply despised Trump. .
Faulconer, for his part, is not at all interested in talking about the ex-president.
After avoiding the reality TV star and serial fraudster in 2016 – âhis divisive rhetoric is unacceptable and I just could never support himâ – Faulconer did just that in 2020, claiming he believed that Trump’s re-election would be the best for the economy.
He reiterated that sentiment over coffee, but was quick to make it clear that if he showed up again next year, he would remain “laser-focused” on California and its issues, as opposed to “national affairs.” .
So if Trump decided to come to California to campaign on his behalf, would Faulconer welcome him to the state? I will not tell.
What about the January 6 riot and Trump’s relentless attempts to overthrow democracy? Do not go there.
Would Faulconer support Trump if he runs for president again in 2024? Past.
There is now a working model for this kind of laser-focused Trump avoidance. In Virginia, Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin deftly dodged the former president while still managing not to upset Trump or his supporters. He will be sworn in as governor in January.
Corn Youngkin had significant advantages over Faulconer. Virginia, while thinking Democrat, is nowhere near as blue as California. Additionally, Youngkin had a clear shot against Democrat Terry McAuliffe after winning the Republican nomination in an unusual ranked choice process that knocked out the biggest of the GOP contenders.
“You get a head-to-head, it’s a very different competition,” said Faulconer, repeatedly explaining how he would face Newsom if they came out of the first two California primaries in June.
But there is absolutely no guarantee that Faulconer, if he does show up, will have the GOP field to himself. An opponent to his right would force him once again to move away from the center or risk upsetting conservative Republicans. Hence the problem faced by every GOP candidate running statewide these days: how to appease the party base without putting off the largest number of Democratic and Independent voters.
Faulconer, 54, has said he will vote on the 2022 governor’s race early next year. When asked if one of the factors was whether he saw the campaign turn into a repeat – bear, fame, circus – of the political slapstick of the encore, he replied: “Yes, of course. ” Faulconer chuckled.
Why do this over again? Better a simple citizen than a double loser.