The California gubernatorial election is 22 months away but already the media is filled with stories about the coming campaign. Given the superiority in Democratic voter registration in this state it is assumed that a Democrat will succeed Jerry Brown in the corner office. Yet, for Republicans there may be hope when witnessing the success of GOP governors in another blue section of the country, New England.
Of the six New England states, Republicans head four, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. By voter registration, four New England states are ranked in the top ten as the most Democratic states in the Union as of early last year with Massachusetts number one and Vermont number five. California was number six on the list.
In a Washington Post column last month, James Hohmann attempted to discover how Republican governors captured these Democratic strongholds.
Are there lessons for California?
Vermont elected Phil Scott who told Hohmann he got involved in politics because the state was an unfriendly place to do business. That’s a theme that could resonate in California. Scott is a fiscal conservative. “But not unlike most Republicans in the Northeast, I’m probably more on the left of center from a social standpoint.”
California Republicans have been battling internally for years on where to draw the line on social issues.
Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker enjoys a 70-percenet-approval rating. Hohmann writes: “He’s viewed as a pragmatist and admired for his effective managerial abilities, even though many of his priorities have been blocked by liberals in the legislature.”
With Democrats overwhelmingly controlling the Massachusetts State House, Baker is seen as a check on overreach. Baker said, “The fiscal discipline issue is for real, and so is the ability to be part of the constructive friction that people like to see.” Politics benefits from competition the same way everything else does. Most people think competition is a good thing and creates an urgency and a tension that works for the so-called consumer, which in this case is the taxpayer or the person who relies on government.”
Isn’t the nod toward fiscal discipline and a wall against legislative overreach how Brown is perceived in California? A Republican could fill those shoes.
There has been talk that San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer fits the mold associated with the successful GOP governors in heavily Democratic states. Whether he runs or not is a question.
Examining the trends and odds, perhaps it is a bit Pollyannaish to imagine, however, looking at the political landscape of some other very blue states, it is not impossible to envision the right Republican capturing California’s governor’s office.