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Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom faces Republican Brian Dahle in the California gubernatorial election

Business Insider logo Business Insider 11/8/2022 (John L. Dorman,Rob Price)
Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo; Insider © Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo; Insider Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo; Insider
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom is seeking a 2nd term in office after beating back a recall election last year.
  • Newsom, one of the highest-profile Democrats in the country, will face off against Brian Dahle.
  • Democrats have won every gubernatorial election in the Golden State since 2010.

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was elected to lead the Golden State in 2018 and easily won a recall election last year, is running for a 2nd term against Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle.


California's gubernatorial candidates

Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor and former California lieutenant governor, has had a national profile for nearly two decades. 

In February 2004, shortly after becoming San Francisco mayor, Newsom began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, which at the time was highly controversial even within the Democratic Party. The licenses were nullified by the California Supreme Court months later, but not before roughly 4,000 couples came to San Francisco's majestic City Hall to embark in public ceremonies that at the time were still rare.

While many Democrats praised him for his actions, others saw it as an act of defiance that drove Republicans to place referendums on same-sex marriage on the ballot in a raft of states in 2004. And some Democrats felt that Newsom's actions ramped up GOP turnout, which in turn boosted then-President George W. Bush's successful reelection bid to the detriment of then-Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee that year.

But Newsom did not waver on his position.

And in 2013, the United States Supreme Court left in place a lower-court ruling that set aside the state's voter-approved ban on gay marriage.

Five years later, Newsom emerged as a frontrunner to succeed then-Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, with a long history of progressivism that gave him an edge in a nonpartisan primary that included former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and conservative businessman John Cox.

Newsom would go on to defeat Cox in a 62%-38% landslide in the 2018 general election.

Newsom's first term has been defined by the coronavirus pandemic; his stay-at-home orders during the pandemic were praised by many Democrats, but frustrated many business owners and GOP activists, which eventually led to last year's recall election.

After cruising to an easy victory in the recall, Newsom solidified his political standing both as governor and as a potential Democratic presidential aspirant in the years ahead.

In recent months, Newsom has pushed the party to be more forceful in articulating their beliefs; in September, he challenged Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida to debate him on television.

Newsom, who was once married to Kimberly Guilfoyle, the now-fiancée of Donald Trump Jr., has sought to portray himself as a protector of the state's liberal values and someone who has been a good steward of the state's finances. In May, he announced that the state boasted a $97.5 billion operating surplus.

Dahle, a former state assemblyman and current state senator, has criticized Newsom on issues ranging from homelessness to home affordability, arguing that California's high cost of living has driven families out of the state in recent years.

California's voting history 

California has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in every election since 1992.

In recent cycles, Democrats have amassed robust margins on the presidential level; Joe Biden won the state by nearly 30 points (63.5% to 34%) in 2020, en route to the presidency.

Republicans last won a gubernatorial election in 2006, when Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for reelection. The party's once-unshakable strength in Orange County was challenged in 2016 when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the jurisdiction by 9 points over then-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump; Biden would also go on to defeat Trump in Orange County by nine points in 2020. 

California's axis of political power has long been centered in the San Francisco Bay Area, which produced Newsom, Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

But with the formal appointment of Los Angeles native Alex Padilla to the Senate in January 2021, the region now has a hometown senator in the upper chamber.

The money race

Newsom has raised $24.5 million for his reelection bid as of November 7, according to The Los Angeles Times. Dahle has raised $2.5 million for his gubernatorial campaign during the same period, per the newspaper.

What experts say

The race between Newsom and Dahle is rated as "solid Democratic" by Inside Elections, "solid Democratic" by The Cook Political Report, and "safe Democratic" by Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.


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