Race for California Governor Heats Up


Chelsea Viola
National Beat Reporter

Potential gubernatorial candidates are setting the stage in preparation for the election next November. There are currently 11 possible candidates eyeing a spot on the ballot, but only six have confirmed their running.

The leading candidate on Democratic ticket is Gavin Newsom, currently serving his second term as California’s lieutenant governor. Newsom has been campaigning to be governor election since February 2015. He ran in 2010 but dropped out of the race after the entry of Jerry Brown, who currently serves as Governor.  

Newsom served as mayor of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011. During his time as mayor he launched the country’s first universal health care initiative and ordered the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

As lieutenant governor, Newsom has championed tougher state gun laws and the legalization of recreational marijuana, both of which passed in statewide initiatives in the 2016 general election.

Newsom is not the only blue candidate gearing up for the governor’s race; Democratic rivals John Chiang, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Delaine Eastin are all well-established contenders who should not be underestimated.

State Treasurer Chiang announced his bid for governor in May of 2016. Before being elected to treasurer, Chiang served two terms as state controller.

As state controller, Chiang refused an order from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to furlough state employees three days a month during the state budget crisis. Although his actions were overruled in court, Chiang was championed a hero to labor unions.

Two years later, Chiang withheld state legislators’ pay because they did not produce a balanced spending plan by the June 15 deadline.

Chiang’s maverick tendencies have brought him notoriety in the media and mixed signals from supporters. Last Tuesday, Chiang received the endorsement of California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, one of California’s most influential politicians.

“As your next Governor, I have a blueprint for expanding and renewing the California dream through fixing our crumbling infrastructure, making retirement security our generation’s call to arms, and rebuilding California’s middle class through better jobs and improved educational opportunities,” Chiang said in a statement.

UCLA alumnus Antonio Villaraigosa served as Speaker of the State Assembly from 1998 to 2000 and as mayor of Los Angeles from 2005 to 2013. Villaraigosa was elected as L.A.’s first Latino mayor since 1872.

As Mayor of L.A., he successfully campaigned for Measure R, a $35 billion transportation initiative passed in 2008. This measure implemented a half-cent sales tax countywide and aided the county’s infamously inefficient public transit system.

When Villaraigosa announced his bid in November of last year, he said his campaign would focus on education, poverty, and “Californians left behind in the new economy.”

“I want to help rebuild the middle class by investing in our schools and repairing our state’s infrastructure,” said Villaraigosa.

Delaine Eastin is the only female Democratic candidate. Eastin served in the Assembly from 1986 to 1994 and as California superintendent of public instruction from 1995 to 2003, being the only woman in California history to be elected to that position.

Eastin currently serves as chairwoman for two advocacy entities, Educate Our State, an advocacy organization focused on California public schools, and CloseTheGapCA, a political group aimed to get more women elected in California Legislature.

“I want people in Sacramento who are going to put the children first again,” Eastin said.

Democratic quasi-candidates include L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti, former Farallon Capital Management hedge fund controller Tom Steyer, and former state controller Steve Wesley.

There are a heavy handful of possible Republican candidates rumored to enter the gubernatorial race, but only two have announced their running.

Republican Rosey Grier, a retired professional football player, announced he was running for governor last month, but has not followed through with any campaign fundraising.

In the 1960s, Grier was a defensive lineman for the Los Angeles Rams, part of the notorious “Fearsome Four” linemen. After his professional sports career, Grier went on to become a minister, actor, and social activist. Grier has not held elected office before.

As a Republican, Grier publicly endorsed Donald Trump, stating, “Time is running out, we need a leader that’s going to change this country. We need to be great again.”

Attorney John Cox is the second confirmed Republican candidate jumping in on the race, stating he is “almost certain” he will run.

In 2003, Cox unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senator of Illinois against Barack Obama.

Cox plans to front his campaign with $1 million of his own cash, but does not plan on out-campaigning Newsom on his bid.

The main proponents of Cox’s platform is “neighborhood legislature,” which revolves around a proposition that would add 12,000 new “citizen legislators” elected in respective neighborhoods to 80 assembly members and 40 senators that comprise the California Legislature.

“This campaign is going to be about the neighborhood legislature,” he said. “To take our government back from the funders, the cronies and the corrupt.”

The remaining handful of candidates who are teetering on the brim of campaigning are from both the Democrat and Republican side.

Republican mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer has expressed interest in running but without confirmation, as well as former Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin.

The top two vote-earning candidates in the primary election go forward in the general election, regardless of political party, although historically it has been a candidate from the Democrat-Republican dichotomy.

The race for campaign funding has only just begun. Newsom has reportedly raised $2.7 million in campaign funds, with competitor Villaraigosa matching roughly the same amount. Chiang reports that he raised $1.93 million during the latter half of 2016.

Although November 2018 is still far down the road, the race for governor isn’t.


Feb. 15, 10:52 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated that Cox did not plan on succeeding Brown with his bid. Cox said that he did not plan to out-campaign Newsom.

Chelsea Viola is a second year Political Science & History of Public Policy double major, and is the 2016-2017 National Beat reporter for The Bottom Line. She is proudly from the Bay Area (Go Warriors!). In her spare time, Chelsea enjoys admiring dogs from a far, watching tv shows that induce existential crises (like Twilight Zone & Black Mirror and all of Food Network), and attending concerts.


  1. Gavin Newsom is and he the ex-mayor of San Francisco who declared it a sanctuary city!Because of his action Kate Steinle is dead, and have to dodge all those idiots smoking dope, that are now on our. Poorly maintained highways. We need a governor who can balance a budget not smoke dope and skip rope and cause People’s deaths. Surely Democratic Party is a better candidate, how about John Garamendi, from an old-time California family not a carpetbagger.

  2. I was really considering Newsom until I just read he was for legalizing marijuana. I strongly voted against this growing blight on America. Now I will have to find a candidate that wasn’t for such a law. Too bad California voters did not heed the warning of Colorado’s attorney general and vote it down.

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