Opinion: Looking Ahead to the Governor’s Race in 2022

Written Philip Mauriello Jr., Managing Attorney of Arete Law A.P.C. and host of the California Underground Podcast

With the 2020 Presidential election behind us, while not out of mind of course, political pundits and observers begin to set their sights on the next big election in California, 2022. In 2022, King Newsom will be up for reelection. I am sure there are many out there who feel the King will win easily as the Democrats hold a 2-1 advantage over Republicans in the Golden State. However, this election looks to be much different than 2018.

In 2018, Republicans were successful in getting John Cox on the ballot. A surprising feat indeed that took the nation by surprise. However, after a tough fight with Travis Allen, Cox was elected in the primary and then escaped into the Central Valley and failed to take the fight to Newsom. It was no surprise Newsom won handily when election night came about. Cox did little to show California voters what would separate him from Newsom. Unfortunately, he is exploring another potential run in 2022.

Other challengers are beginning to emerge while we get close to turning the page to 2021. A run for Governor is something that will likely be announced this upcoming winter/early spring. It is a long road to 2022 and the work essentially begins now.

As I see it there are two challengers, one who has announced and who is seriously flirting with the idea.

The first is a grassroots sensation by the name of Major Williams (formerly named Courtney LaPaul Williams). He has done an incredible job in building a grassroots campaign through social media and growing his brand. He once ran for Mayor of Pasadena, but ultimately did not win. He is seen at many events and appears to be a charismatic and magnetic personality. He has appeared on numerous local news outlets and has made it known that he is a “new type of politician” running for Governor. His stances are textbook conservatism; pro-God, pro-2A, pro-lower taxes, pro-family, etc. He has made it well known he stands with President Trump, down to the use of his campaign logo on red baseball caps.

There is no telling whether this type of grassroots campaign would be successful for Governor. Outside of his run for Mayor of Pasadena, it appears Mr. Williams has no political experience in California. When push comes to shove, he will have to answer how he can manage one of the largest states in the United States. Without political acumen, it may be a hard sell.

The second challenger has not officially announced his candidacy, but all signs are pointing to him running. That candidate is the soon to be former Mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer.

Mayor Faulconer stands in stark contrast to Mr. Williams in several ways. Mayor Faulconer has the political experience of running one of the three coastal cities in California. He has shown he can be elected in a coastal city and build coalitions. In 2018, he polled second behind Newsom without even announcing a run. It is likely he would have the full support of the CAGOP if he were to run. His stances are more moderate than Mr. Williams. During his tenure as Mayor he understood he presided over a city which not only boasted enormous diversity but also bordered Mexico.

In the next coming year, there will be a fight to see who squares off against Newsom in 2022. I do not imagine Mr. Williams going anywhere, and his grassroots following is certainly something not to take lightly. Last time I checked; Mr. Williams had an Instagram following of 155,000 compared to Mayor Faulconer’s 11,100. This is not to be ignored and Mayor Faulconer could certainly catch up to Mr. Williams after he announces, but it is something that plays to Mr. Williams’ favor. But a large social media following does not qualify one to become Governor of California. If that were the case, Kim Kardashian would be Governor right now.

The bigger question that opponents of King Newsom must ponder though, is how do they create a coalition for one candidate? While it is true Democrats hold a 2-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans in California, combined Republicans and Independents hold a slight advantage over Democrats. The next gubernatorial candidate who faces Newsom will have to build a coalition among all three registered voter groups. Will a classic conservative like Mr. Williams be able to create that coalition? Does Mayor Faulconer’s experience in being elected as a Republican in a coastal city show that he can create a coalition?

The hardest part of running as a Republican in California is starting at a handicap behind Democrats. Democrats are known for falling in line when it is time to pull the lever for a certain candidate. Even when a Democrat agrees that taxes are too high, income inequality is out of control, and the government has become too bloated for its own good; they will still pull vote for Democrats. It is up to any serious candidate to be able to not only rally the entire Republican roster of voters, but take a significant portion of Independents, and peel away Democrats. All this while making inroads in the coastal cities, because without chipping away at those vote centers you have no chance of winning (again see Cox’s run in 2018).

Whoever does come out as the candidate to challenge Newsom, the most important part of success will be to create the coalition effectively to take on his political machine come 2022. Newsom will not go quietly, and despite his horrible management of the state pre-pandemic and presently during the pandemic, Democrats will still blindly vote for him if a better alternative is not presented. As for Republicans, it is imperative we do not have another 2018 situation where the Party is split between two candidates (Allen and Cox), and instead put all resources and energy behind one viable candidate. Because if Republicans fail to stick together in 2022…well then you know what Ben Franklin said about hanging together.