What does California’s governor do?
Say hello to the top political office in the state.
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
- A deep housing affordability crisis and rising rates of homelessness
- Preparing the state for the effects of climate change, including the now year-round wildfire season
The current governor is Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who is running for reelection. The top two candidates in the June 7 primary vote will advance to the November general election.
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.
This section was republished from CalMatters’ 2022 Voter Guide:
This is a top-two primary, meaning the two candidates who receive the most votes, regardless of party, will advance to the runoff election in November.
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 last September by a nearly identical margin. As he pursues a second and final four-year term, Newsom faces a slim field of challengers — and an even slimmer chance of losing.
None of the major candidates who sought to replace Newsom in the recall election are running again. His most prominent opponent is probably Brian Dahle, a little-known Republican legislator from rural Northern California. Even with some voters souring on Newsom’s performance — his approval rating was nearly evenly split in a recent poll — it will take a miracle to unseat the governor and his $25 million campaign war chest in this overwhelmingly Democratic state.
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. But he 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.
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 the most prominent GOP challenger to Gov. Gavin Newsom this year, though hardly a household name. 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.
A staunch conservative, Dahle may appeal to enough Republicans to finish in the top two of 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 — he runs counter to the mainstream of the California electorate.
Jenny Rae Le Roux
This profile is from CalMatters’ 2022 Voter Guide. See their full guide for more on Le Roux’s work history and stances on specific issues.
Looking to make connections with the tech industry, Jenny Rae Le Roux moved to California more than a decade ago from Atlanta, where she worked for the global management consulting firm Bain & Co. Because she wanted to maintain a more rural lifestyle, Le Roux settled outside Redding, where she lives with her family on a 181-acre farm. Since then, she has helped build several businesses and, in 2012, purchased Management Consulted, which provides interview and resume prep for university students and corporate training services. She graduated from Columbia Business School in 2018.
Frustrated by California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and what she considered to be poor planning by the state, Le Roux jumped into politics last year during the recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom. She ultimately finished 29th among replacement candidates, receiving about 16,000 votes. But Le Roux is making another run for governor as a “pro-business fiscal conservative,” and so far, she has significantly outraised every other challenger to Newsom, other than Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle.
CalMatters did not publish profiles of the following candidates also on the ballot. We link to their campaign websites and additional information on Voter’s Edge when available.
Ronald A. Anderson, contractor/inspector/businessman (Republican)
Website: none found
Anthony "Tony" Fanara, restaurant owner (Democratic)
Website: none found
Robert C. Newman, II, farmer/psychologist (Republican)
Armando "Mando" Perez-Serrato (Democratic)
Woodrow "Woody" Sanders, III, entrepreneur/director/engineer (No Party Preference)
Website: none found
Frederic C. Schultz, human rights attorney (No Party Preference)
Website: none found