Capitol Alert

Kevin Faulconer quietly recedes from governor’s race he never joined

San Diego Mayor Kevion Faulconer talks about his plans for a second term in office. Faulconer said he won’t run for governor of California in 2018 if reelected to a four-term term as mayor this year.
San Diego Mayor Kevion Faulconer talks about his plans for a second term in office. Faulconer said he won’t run for governor of California in 2018 if reelected to a four-term term as mayor this year. AP

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, among the state’s highest-ranking Republicans, has been credited with fashioning a template for how to win in a Democratic city.

As the only Republican to lead one of the country’s 10 largest cities, having taken office amid the wreckage left by Democrat Bob Filner, the affable Faulconer immediately rose to the top of the GOP’s short list of future candidates for statewide office.

As he campaigns for reelection, the immediate question is not if Faulconer will retain his seat, but whether he gets enough votes in June to avoid a fall runoff.

Faulconer’s elevated status in the beleaguered party, and the relative ease with which he’s expected to cruise to another term, has made him the GOP frontrunner to challenge for the governorship in 2018, when Democrat Jerry Brown leaves the office because of term limits.

But then Faulconer said he wasn’t interested, recently telling the editorial board of The San Diego Union-Tribune he’s committed to serving out a full term as mayor.

“I am here for four years as mayor,” Faulconer later reiterated to The Associated Press, an interview in which he reaffirmed his refusal to endorse Donald Trump.

Faulconer’s announcement, however understated, could boost the prospects of Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, perhaps the GOP’s best hope of averting a runoff between two Democrats. The 2018 race already features Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Treasurer John Chiang, both Democrats.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and ex-Controller Steve Westly are expected to run, and other potential Democratic candidates include billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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