Faulconer’s decision, a day before the deadline for candidates to file, completed a sweep of top recall candidates who declined a rematch. Their broad reluctance speaks to Newsom’s perceived staying power after he crushed the recall by double digits in September.
Conservative talk show and top replacement candidate vote-getter host Larry Elder removed himself from the running months ago, and businessperson John Cox – Newsom’s 2018 opponent – did the same more recently. Assemblymember Kevin Kiley is running for Congress. Former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner has not sought a second act in California politics.
Any Republican facing Newsom would face an uphill battle given California’s profoundly Democratic electorate and Newsom’s massive warchest. A Faulconer aide said the former mayor would not run unless he could line up tens of millions of dollars in support – a tall order in a state where dispirited conservative donors often send their money elsewhere.
Newsom’s 2022 opponents will include Republican state Senator Brian Dahle; GOP Navy veteran Shawn Collins; and independent Michael Shellenberger, who has gained attention for his arguments that progressive governance exacerbated San Francisco’s homelessness crisis.