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Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has been lobbied intensely by GOP leaders to run for California governor, on Friday rejected the idea and vowed to serve out his second term at city hall.
Both House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and state Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte had urged Faulconer to run.
A fiscal conservative and social moderate who has demonstrated crossover appeal by winning over Democrats, Faulconer has been seen as the GOP’s strongest potential gubernatorial candidate, and one who could help Republicans in down-ballot races if he was at the top of the ticket in 2018. But Falconer nixed the idea of a gubernatorial bid in a Facebook post Friday afternoon, saying he was "deeply honored" by "so many" encouraging him to run.
"It's a testament to the people of San Diego, and the progress we've made to create a fiscally responsible, prosperous city that is moving in the right direction. I made a pledge last year to serve out my second term as mayor, and that's exactly what I'm going to do,” Faulconer said in the post.
He was facing pressure to enter the race and GOP insiders who were familiar with his thinking believed he was leaning toward running.
Faulconer ultimately decided not to run because he did not see a certain path to victory, according to a top state party official who did not want to be identified because they were not authorized to speak for the San Diego mayor.
The last time a GOP candidate won a statewide race was in 2006.
The governor’s race already has attracted a handful of Republican candidates, but none with Faulconer's political stature. They include conservative Orange County Assemblyman Travis Allen and Rancho Santa Fe venture capitalist John Cox. Speculation is mounting that former state Assemblyman David Hadley plans to announce a run.
The Democratic heavyweights in the race include Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang.
A strong GOP top-of-the-ticket candidate would be expected to increase Republican turnout next fall. Faulconer’s decision not to run could impact some hotly contested congressional races in California, and potentially affect Republican efforts to retain control of the House of Representatives.
If a Republican gubernatorial candidate fails to make the general election, creating a Democrat-on-Democrat race in November 2018, that could depress GOP turnout and affect those targeted congressional races.
“It leaves the Republicans without an obvious front-runner that the donors would have confidence in,” said GOP strategist Rob Stutzman, who previously advised former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and 2010 GOP nominee Meg Whitman. But “it still depends on the nature of the race next November. It’s too early to say.”
Update 4:21 p.m.: This story was updated with reaction about Faulconer's decision and more information about the 2018 election.
This story was originally published at 3:30 p.m.