Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
November 14, 2016 – 8:00 PM

A new poll indicates that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is, by a wide margin, the leading candidate for governor two years hence – which shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Six years ago, as mayor of San Francisco and the leading proponent of same-sex marriage rights, Newsom wanted to run for governor but was chased out, in a manner of speaking, by Jerry Brown.

Forced to settle for what political insiders call “light governor,” Newsom kept on running and eventually made his 2018 candidacy official while sponsoring two 2016 ballot measures to legalize marijuana and regulate ammunition.

This year, Newsom’s political apparatus has made nonstop appeals to donors, seeking money for the two measures, even though there was virtually no organized opposition to either, and within hours of the Nov. 8 election, when both were approved, he had shifted to pleading for more money for the 2018 campaign.

The Field Poll of registered voters, conducted just before the election, found that Newsom, at 23 percent, easily leads the pack of declared and potential candidates.

Interestingly, San Diego’s Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, comes in second at 16 percent, followed by Republican Ashley Swearengin, the soon-to-be ex-mayor of Fresno, at 11 percent.

The others, all Democrats, are in single digits: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, 7 percent; former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, 6 percent; businessman/environmentalist Tom Steyer, 5 percent; Secretary of State Alex Padilla, 4 percent; Treasurer John Chiang, 2 percent; and former Controller Steve Westly, 1 percent.

Villaraigosa and Chiang are announced candidates while Westly has semi-announced, and all the others are just potentials. In fact, Faulconer has publicly denied interest in running.

The election will be another exercise in the state’s top-two primary system, under which the top two vote-getters in the June primary, regardless of party, face each other in November.

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