At least one prominent California Democrat is considering running for governor if incumbent Gavin Newsom faces retirement later this year, according to a report.
Tom Steyer, a billionaire who ran for president in 2020, is conducting polls as a precursor to possibly entering the race, Politico reported, citing information from three sources.
Steyer has been recorded to oppose Newsom’s withdrawal, but would run as an “alternative” Democratic candidate if polls suggested Newsom would have trouble defending himself against the withdrawal and keeping his post, according to the report.
“The withdrawal efforts in California are a clear attempt by the Republican Party to regain control of the state and quell the progressive momentum that extended through 2020 and will continue,” Steyer said in a statement, according to Sacramento’s FOX 40. “That is why I am opposed to withdrawal.”
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When asked Wednesday about a possible Steyer candidacy, Newsom sidestepped the issue, FOX station reported.
“I have been honestly overwhelmed by the incredible support that the Democratic Party has shown in opposition to this withdrawal, very proud to have their almost unanimous opposition to this withdrawal,” Newsom told reporters. “I look forward to working with those who will soon join the cause and I am confident in our ability to truly unite the Democratic Party against this Republican withdrawal.”
In 2020, Steyer was appointed to Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Job Recovery in response to the pandemic, but the panel was disbanded in November, FOX 40 reported.
Registrars in the state’s 58 counties are reviewing petition signatures sent out earlier this month, calling for a Newsom recall to be placed on the ballot. Registrars have until April 29 to validate signatures.
“At the end of April,” a Steyer spokesman said when a Politico reporter asked when the businessman could comment on a possible career.
Newsom, 53, is a first-term governor who previously served as lieutenant governor and as mayor of San Francisco. But his policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including closing schools and businesses, have energized activists seeking to oust him.
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California voters previously removed a governor in 2003, when Gov. Gray Davis, also a Democrat, was ousted. That effort ultimately resulted in the election of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger as Davis’ replacement.
In his poll, Steyer allegedly compiled voters’ attitudes about the state’s pandemic response and environmental issues, Politico reported.
The Steyer poll also reportedly asks voters if they plan to overthrow Newsom and gets their impressions on which other Democrats, including Steyer, may be viable replacements.
Several well-known Republicans have already expressed interest in replacing Newsom, including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, former US Representative Doug Ose and businessman John Cox, although California remains a strongly Democratic state in terms of voter registration.
Registration figures for 2020 showed that state voters are 46.1% Democrats, 24.2% Republicans and 24% nonpartisan, according to the California secretary of state’s office.
The 22 million Californians who registered to vote in the 2020 presidential election represented a state record, the bureau said. California is the most populous state in the nation, with approximately 40 million residents, according to 2020 estimates from the US Census Bureau.
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Meanwhile, Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, a former Los Angeles mayor who challenged Newsom in the party’s primaries for governor in 2018, is not known to be considering a candidacy related to the impeachment effort, Politico reported.
Political observers in the state believe Democrats are waiting to judge the political landscape in late summer before deciding whether to enter the race, according to the report.