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Ron Nehring

Race for Republican Nomination for Governor is Wide Open

This week, the Tax Foundation reported once again, California is one of the worst states in the country when it comes to its business climate. The state’s high taxes and enormous regulatory burden is disproportionately carried by the entrepreneurs, small businesses and independent contractors who lack the massive compliance departments of big companies like those which dominate Silicon Valley.

California needs to be rebalanced, and Republicans must summon the strength to do it. There is no alternative. There’s no magical taxpayer-friendly wing of the Democratic Party. No mystical non-partisan hero waiting in the wings. Ending one party rule in California can only come about with a Republican victory.

The nomination of a governor candidate in 2022 is central to the party’s success. Having served as the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor in 2014, I have seen first-hand the impact the top of the ticket has on our down-ballot prospects. Republicans swept almost all California statewide offices in 1994 on the strength of Gov. Pete Wilson’s re-election combined with a favorable national environment.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is a top prospect to be our Republican nominee for Governor. Faulconer won the mayor’s office twice in an increasingly Democratic city. He has demonstrated the ability to build the kind of bipartisan coalition essential to winning statewide. He has a strong case to make.

Competitive primaries can be healthy for the party. Candidates never wish for a competitive primary, but they tend to force candidates to organize earlier while sharpening their messaging.

Our 2018 nominee, John Cox, clearly is interested in running again. His exploratory committee demonstrated this over the last few days by circulating a polling memo they claim “revealed an electorate that has solidified support for Republican candidate John Cox over San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.”

The claim is absurd. No reporter, Republican leader, elected official, candidate, delegate or voter should take it seriously. The state’s political press yawned.

Voters are focused on the 2020 national election, which is taking place in perhaps the most polarizing political environment since 1968. Claiming the contest for a gubernatorial primary which will take place almost two years from now has “solidified” doesn’t even qualify as spin – it’s jibberish.

People should be skeptical of polling memos circulated by candidates, and this one demonstrates why. Putting aside for the moment how worthless a survey is about a race that is two years away, releasing a poll without the accompanying questions is playing hide and seek. What kind of information was given to respondents? How were questions phrased? We need to see the receipts, so to speak.

Campaigns also matter. When Ted Cruz entered the Republican presidential contest in March 2015, he polled as a virtual asterisk – an unknown outside of his own state of Texas. Within 12 months, Cruz emerged to win the Iowa Caucuses and finished second in the national delegate count. If any candidate looked like he had “consolidated” Republican support in March 2015, it was Jeb Bush, who lasted about a month once the voting began. Campaigns matter.

When evaluating candidates seeking to run again, it pays to take a look at their last performance.

When I was nominated for Lt. Governor against incumbent Gavin Newsom, I won 42.8% of the vote in the general election as a challenger on a campaign which raised less than $100,000. When John Cox faced Newsom in 2018 for an open governor seat, Cox won 38.1% on a campaign of about $10 million. Newsom was so confident of victory, he held back $15 million to transfer to his 2022 re-election committee.

Running statewide is no simple task. In a state this large, it’s an enormous undertaking. All of our 2022 candidates will stand on the shoulders of those who came before. We should honor them.

Concurrently, candidates need to know the limits of their own spin. No political contest is “solidified” two years before election day.

I want to see the California Republican Party, an institution I had the honor of leading for two terms, offer Californians an exciting, bold slate of statewide nominees in 2022 capable of winning a majority in the Golden State. The leader of that ticket may be John Cox, or it may be Kevin Faulconer. Voters will make that determination – no matter how much consultants, pollsters, and candidates may want to have the final say.

The 2022 race for California governor will soon be under way. May the best Republican win.