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Newsom 2022 Re-Election Nearly Guaranteed as Republican Leaders Opt Out

California governor Gavin Newsom. Photo: Mike Blake/Reuters

With the passing of the filing deadline for California’s 2022 gubernatorial primary, not a single top challenger from last year’s recall election has entered the race, paving the way for the nearly guaranteed re-election of Governor Newsom. 

Conservative talk show host Larry Elder and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the top Republican recall candidate and runner-up respectively, each issued statements declaring they wouldn’t be entering the race. Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, who rose to statewide prominence through the recall, has set his sights on Congress instead, entering the primary for the now-competitive 3rd District seat and earning the state party’s endorsement.

With Newsom emboldened by his “landslide” recall victory and equipped with a $25 million war chest, defeating the governor would be a daunting challenge for any opponent, but two challengers have nonetheless emerged to offer alternative visions for how California should be governed. 

State Senator Brian Dahle, who represents wide swathes of California’s northeast, is the only Republican of significance to enter the race, and has dedicated his campaign towards improving the party’s image and respectability. While this approach may not prove to be very popular with the party’s base, having a more moderate topline gubernatorial candidate could improve Republicans’ prospects in more competitive districts where independent and Democratic voters are more inclined to vote against progressives than for Trump-style Republicans. 
Amid such a low-profile gubernatorial field, policy expert, public intellectual and former progressive Michael Shellenberger brings the highest name recognition and largest following to the race. Running as an independent candidate, Shellenberger is best known for his recent book, San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities, which explores how progressive policies reduce cities’ abilities to provide critical services ranging from infrastructure to education while inducing skyrocketing costs of living, crime, drug addiction and homelessness.