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California Governor
Say hello to the top political office in the state. California Governor Gavin Newson, a Democrat, is running for reelection against Republican Brian Dahle.
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What does California’s governor do?

The governor is the head of California’s executive branch. Their decisions shape how the state is run and the level of funding and support available to our cities and counties for services. Among their many powers, the governor can:

  • Sign or veto legislation
  • Create and balance budgets 
  • Appoint people to run agencies or be on commissions
  • Appoint judges
  • Issue pardons or commute sentences for people in state prison
  • Declare emergencies and use emergency powers (in 2020, Gov. Gavin Newson used his power as governor to issue a pandemic stay-at-home order, for example)

While the legislative and judicial branches are still there to keep the governor in check, the governor has enough influence to push forward a policy agenda. Plus, as we’ve seen during the pandemic, there’s a lot of room for them to exert power in times of emergency.

Things the governor can’t do: shut down borders (although they can issue travel restrictions, especially in cases like a pandemic), unilaterally force cities to build (or not build) housing, or raise taxes without legislative approval.

What’s on the agenda for the next term?

Running the Golden State: not for the faint of heart. A series of crises means that the next governor will have a lot on their plate, including:

  • Managing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including possible surges or variants, as well as the emergence of the monkeypox virus
  • A deep housing affordability crisis and rising rates of homelessness
  • Preparing the state for the effects of climate change, including extreme heat and the now year-round wildfire season
  • Managing the statewide drought response
Before you keep reading…
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More Voter Guides

City of Los Angeles

L.A. County

  • Sheriff: Compare the two candidates for L.A. County sheriff
  • Water Agencies: Learn what they do and what to look for in a candidate

How to evaluate judges

California propositions

  • Propositions 26 and 27: The difference between the sports betting ballot measures
  • Proposition 29: Why kidney dialysis is on your ballot for the third time
  • Proposition 30: Why Lyft is the biggest funder of this ballot measure

Head to the Voter Game Plan homepage for guides to the rest of your ballot.

The current governor is Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who is running for reelection.

More reading:

So You Want To Recall The Governor (L.A. Pays Attention): An overview of all the powers that California’s governor has, with spotlights on what Gov. Newsom has done, in light of last year’s recall effort.

The candidates

This section was republished from CalMatters’ 2022 Voter Guide:

This is the third time that Californians are voting for governor in the past four years. Democrat Gavin Newsom won a decisive blowout in 2018, then beat back a recall attempt in September 2021 by a nearly identical margin. As he pursues a second and final four-year term, Newsom faces an incredibly slim chance of losing in this overwhelmingly Democratic state — he won the June 7 primary election with 56.2% of the vote.

Newsom is running in the general election against Republican Brian Dahle, a little-known legislator from rural Northern California who received 17.5% of the vote in the June primary, the second largest share of votes after Newsom.


Gavin Newsom

Governor of California (Democratic)

This profile is from CalMatters’ 2022 Voter Guide. See their full guide for more on Newsom’s work history and stances on specific issues.

Perhaps you’ve heard of this guy? Gavin Newsom has been generating headlines — and sparking speculation about his presidential ambitions — for nearly two decades. He came to widespread prominence in 2004 when, as the mayor of San Francisco, he briefly issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the courts stepped in. Newsom has been chasing history and occupying the cutting edge of liberal politics ever since.

Elected governor in 2018, his first term in office has been dominated by his frequent public battles with former President Donald Trump, and then the coronavirus pandemic. His aggressive leadership, including issuing the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order in March 2020, initially earned him national plaudits. But after an ill-timed dinner at the French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley, where he flouted his own COVID rules about mixing households, his pandemic response also became a rallying point for frustrated conservatives, who mounted an unsuccessful recall attempt against Newsom last year.

Newsom has kept many Democratic supporters satisfied with symbolically significant steps including a death penalty moratorium and diverse appointees to the state’s highest offices. He also emerged as a prominent voice nationally again this spring, leading California’s charge to expand abortion access after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. But the governor disappointed progressives by backing away from his commitment to establish a single-payer health care system in California, one of his major campaign priorities. There is also growing frustration among the public that his promises to turbocharge housing production and address pervasive homelessness have yet to yield noticeable results.

Campaign Website: gavinnewsom.com
Contributions: California Secretary of State Filings
Endorsements: List of endorsements (Voter's Edge)

More resources:


Brian Dahle

Senator/Farmer (Republican)

This profile is from CalMatters’ 2022 Voter Guide. See their full guide for more on Dahle’s work history and stances on specific issues.

Brian Dahle is from truly rural California: the tiny town of Bieber, with fewer than 300 residents, in the far northern county of Lassen. His family has ranched in the area for generations and he followed them into agriculture, starting his own seed company, which he has continued to operate during his forays into politics.

After a decade in the state Legislature, including a brief stint leading the Assembly Republican Caucus, Dahle is hardly a household name. But conservatives rallied behind him as the most prominent GOP challenger to Gov. Gavin Newsom this year. Dahle has tried to position himself as the savior who can rescue California from liberal elitism run amok under Newsom, whom he slammed as a “dictator” and a “smooth-talking wine salesman” during his campaign kickoff. Dahle has called for overturning Proposition 47, the voter-approved initiative that reduced penalties for some theft and drug crimes, and for requiring that homeless people get sober before the state will provide them with housing assistance.

An unapologetic conservative, Dahle easily eclipsed the rest of the field of challengers to finish second in the June primary, but he faces an uphill climb to win over the Democratic and independent voters he would need to topple Newsom in November. On key issues — including his support for former President Donald Trump and his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 — Dahle is outside the mainstream of the California electorate. He received a little less than 18% of the primary vote, compared to 56% for Newsom.

Campaign Website: briandahle.com
Contributions: California Secretary of State Filings
Endorsements: List of endorsements (Voter's Edge)

More resources:

More Voter Guides

City of Los Angeles

L.A. County

  • Sheriff: Compare the two candidates for L.A. County sheriff
  • Water Agencies: Learn what they do and what to look for in a candidate

How to evaluate judges

California propositions

  • Propositions 26 and 27: The difference between the sports betting ballot measures
  • Proposition 29: Why kidney dialysis is on your ballot for the third time
  • Proposition 30: Why Lyft is the biggest funder of this ballot measure

Head to the Voter Game Plan homepage for guides to the rest of your ballot.

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