Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Photo by Chris Stone

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a likely Republican challenger to Gov. Gavin Newsom, Saturday endorsed a statewide effort to recall the governor.

Faulconer, who left San Diego City Hall last month after two terms as mayor, linked to the recall petition website with this tweet: “It’s a new year. We need a new governor. Jobs are leaving, homelessness is skyrocketing, and the state can’t even issue unemployment checks to people struggling right now to get by. California is better than this. Join me in signing the recall petition.”

The effort to recall Newsom has received 911,000 signatures, according to organizers. The number of valid signatures from California registered voters needed to qualify for the ballot is 1,495,709 by mid-March.

Newsom was widely criticized after attending a dinner at the French Laundry in Napa Valley in November amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photos of the dinner showed Newsom without a mask when he was asking Californians not to socialize with friends and wear a face covering when going out and being around others.

The governor apologized for attending the dinner, calling it a “bad mistake.”

The dinner was a 50th birthday party for lobbyist Jason Kinney, an associate of Newsom’s whose firm has business before the governor.

Dan Newman, who represents Newsom in political matters, responded to Faulconer’s comment by saying the recall effort amounts to a refusal to accept the will of California voters.

“The Trump train doesn’t want to leave the station, but Kevin Faulconer is all aboard. Faulconer proudly voted for Trump, and now they both refuse to accept the will of the voters — because they know they can’t win elections without changing the rules,” said Newman. “So after bungling a local pandemic and homeless crisis, Faulconer is joining other Trump supporters who want taxpayers to waste $100 million on a special election redo, mere months before a regularly scheduled election.”

The new San Diego mayor, Democrat Todd Gloria, who was sworn-in Dec. 10, did not immediately comment on Faulconer joining the recall movement.

Several previous attempts to recall the governor faded, but the current effort has been gaining momentum with more Californians upset over health orders that have closed school campuses and businesses.

Recently, Faulconer said he was “very seriously thinking” about running for governor, although no formal announcement has been made.

In December, Faulconer was appointed a visiting professor of community leadership and government innovation at Pepperdine School of Public Policy in Malibu. His service at the school began Friday. Faulconer will teach a new graduate course, titled “Innovative Local Leadership,” in the school’s State and Local Policy specialization.

Updated at 4:53 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021

— City News Service