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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer made his first public appearance Tuesday following his gubernatorial bid announcement, in which he railed against Gov. Gavin Newsom and touted his accomplishments in his two terms as mayor.

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer walks past a school bus he arrived in Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, in the San Pedro section of Los Angeles. Faulconer announced Monday he is entering the race for California governor, the first major Republican to formally step into the contest while a potential recall election aimed at Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom moves closer to qualifying for the ballot this year. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Speaking outside Cabrillo Avenue Elementary School in San Pedro, Faulconer said he was prepared to run in a special election this year if Newsom is recalled via a statewide effort that must reach nearly 1.5 million valid signatures from California registered voters by mid-March to qualify. Recall organizers said this weekend that they have collected more than 1.3 million signatures thus far.

Faulconer said he was also prepared to run in the regularly scheduled 2022 election, but said he believed the recall effort would be successful “because of the growing anger across California”  regarding Newsom’s “broken promises” in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness and jobs.

Pledging to lead the “California comeback,” Faulconer said current leadership has failed Californians, alleging that Newsom has “destroyed jobs” and “empowered violent criminals,” while also criticizing the governor for dining at the French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley when the state’s stay-at- home order was in effect.

Faulconer’s appearance in front of an LA-area school was also intended to highlight the fact that public schools have not reopened following pandemic-related closures, which Faulconer alleged was another “broken promise” on Newsom’s part.

“His continuous failures are an immediate hazard to the state of California, and he must be replaced,” Faulconer said.

The former mayor said reducing homelessness, getting kids back to school and opposing tax increases were major parts of his platform.

“We are going to decrease homelessness, not condone it. We’re going to support your job, not destroy it. We’re going to let you keep more of what you earn, not tax it,” Faulconer said.

Faulconer criticized Newsom’s orders shuttering outdoor dining and other sectors, decisions which Faulconer alleged were not rooted in data.

“We have to have a process that is based on science. That’s not what we have seen,” said Faulconer, who also called for increased transparency with the public regarding the data informing such decisions.

FOX 5 political analyst Carl Luna says people are watching closely to see if Faulconer will move to the right or stay in a more moderate position.

“The republicans are united in wanting Gavin Newsom out and if Kevin Faulconer is their choice, he has a very good chance of winning,” Luna said. “The question is will someone outflank him to the right.”

Newsom has previously said that he is remaining focused on managing the state’s pandemic response and not on the recall effort, and Dan Newman, a spokesman for the governor, offered much the same take on Tuesday.

“While Faulconer and other Trump supporters like John Cox and Michael Cernovich compete in the Republican primary, we’ll stay focused on distributing the vaccine and providing relief and recovery to families and small businesses harmed by the virus,” Newman said.

Regarding his time as mayor, Faulconer touted San Diego as “the only big city in California where homelessness went down, not up.”

Faulconer said the city was able to fix roads without raising taxes and that rather than decreasing the San Diego Police Department amid public scrutiny regarding police operations, “I increased the budget.”

“We shook up San Diego, and we’re going to shake up Sacramento,” he said.

While Faulconer touted his work on local homelessness, Newman cited criticisms of his response to the hepatitis A outbreak that plagued San Diego’s homeless community and claims that lcao police enforcement of the homeless — such as arrests and citations for illegal lodging for those living on the streets — increased under his watch.

When asked about such criticisms Tuesday, Faulconer said he was “proud” of his work on the homeless front in San Diego, and said San Diego police were the “number one referral” to local homeless shelters.

Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, center, greets a supporter after a news conference in Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, in the San Pedro section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Newman said, “Faulconer isn’t the first Trump supporter running for Governor, but he is the first former lobbyist who bungled a local pandemic and homeless crisis. Trying to exploit a global pandemic to advance a political career exposes his craven ambition, as does making the same “I’m running!” announcement at the start of each month, waiting in vain for people to pay attention.

Faulconer was San Diego’s mayor from 2014 through December after serving seven years on the City Council. In December, he was appointed a visiting professor of community leadership and government innovation at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy in Malibu.