Sunday, December 5, 2021

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer may seek revenge in Newsom

Kevin Falconer looked like any other tourist when he recently stopped in the middle of Market Street to photograph the graceful Ferry Building.

In one minute, you’re in living quarters all over California, trying to run for governor. Next time, you’re just some guy in an oxford shirt and blue jacket, discreetly rolling your roller bag down the main stem of San Francisco.

There was a time not too long ago when Falconer was the bright hope of struggling California Republicans. As a moderate, politically oriented and not intimidating mayor of San Diego, he seemed ideally suited to remake the onerous image of the Republican Party, garnering enough democratic and independent support to break the long-standing Democratic stranglehold on Sacramento.

Squinting up, you can even see Pete Wilson, another former San Diego Republican mayor, who took the centrist route to Washington and Sacramento.

Falconer then hugged President Trump, ran in September’s election to recall Gavin Newsom, and began hanging out with people like Devin Nunez and other members of the Mafia’s wing of the Republican Party.

And then, When radio flamethrower Larry Elder joined the race and cornered the MAGA marketplace, Falconer seemed to once again become the decisive voice of the bipartisan mind that served him so well before he ended his two terms in San Diego.

As a result, after all this support and shaping, Newsom’s replacement bid showed a weak 8%.

So naturally, Falconer is considering running again to challenge the Democratic governor in California’s regularly scheduled 2022 elections.

“I believe there is a need to change the foundations of the state,” Falconer said over black coffee at a designer store in San Francisco, citing the homelessness, crime and obscene housing costs that plagued California. “In my opinion, we did not reach many of them in the recall elections.”

Blame John Cox, the resident GOP nominee, and the poor bear he drove around the state. Or Caitlyn Jenner and her ill-fated vanity campaign. Or YouTube seller Kevin Puffrat. Or blame the media. (This is always popular.)

At some point, Falconer said, the campaign turned into a spectacle, not a substance.

“The atmosphere of the circus that he had become was not suitable for fair political debate,” he complained, but honestly, Falconer tried. He released well-thought-out proposals for taxes, homelessness, and reorganization of, among other things, the scandalous State Employment Development Department.

But the Elder soon dominated the race. According to Falconer, the elder threw Newsom a lifeline by nationalizing recall elections, turning the campaign from a referendum on the incumbent, who the governor could lose, to choosing between Newsom and a vigorous replacement for the deeply despised Trump. …

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Falconer, in turn, is not at all interested in talking about the ex-president.

After Falconer avoided the reality TV star and serial con artist in 2016 – “his divisive rhetoric is unacceptable and I just can never support him” – Falconer did just that in 2020, stating that he believed Trump’s re-election will be the best for the economy.

He echoed that sentiment over coffee, but Falconer quickly made it clear that if he ran again next year, he would remain “laser focused” on California and its problems, not “national things.”

So if Trump decides to come to California to campaign on his behalf, will Falconer welcome him to the state? I would not say.

What about the January 6 riots and Trump’s ongoing efforts to undermine democracy? I won’t go there.

Will Falconer support Trump if he runs for president again in 2024? Pass.

There is now a working model for this kind of laser-driven avoidance of Trump and his ongoing attacks on democracy. In Virginia, Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin has cleverly bypassed the former president without provoking hostility towards Trump or his supporters. He will be sworn in as governor in January.

But Yangkin had significant advantages over Faulconer. Democratic-leaning Virginia is nowhere near as blue as California. In addition, after winning the Republican nomination in an unusual ranking process that eliminated the biggest GOP contender, Youngkin had a clear shot against Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

“You can meet one-on-one, it’s a very different competition,” Falconer said repeatedly about how he would have played against Newsom if they had emerged from the top two California primaries in June.

True enough.

But there is absolutely no guarantee that Falconer, if he escapes, will have a GOP for himself. The opponent on the right will force him to move away from the center again or risk disliking the conservative Republicans. Hence the problem that every GOP candidate running across the state today faces: how to appease the party base without alienating much larger numbers of Democratic and independent voters.

Falconer, 54, said he would be targeting 2022 gubernatorial elections early next year. When asked if a factor was whether he saw the campaign turn into a repetition of the political burlesque of the review – bears, celebrities, circus – he replied, “Yes, of course.” Falconer chuckled.

Why go through this again? Better a private person than a two-time loser.

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