Governor candidates snipe at each other in L.A. debate
There were lots of signs that California’s race to replace termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown began in earnest Saturday during a forum at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
With the top finishers in the June 5 primary, regardless of party, advancing to the November election, the candidates started swinging hard in an effort to stand out in the crowded field:
Both of the two Republicans onstage and two of the three other Democrats attacked early poll frontrunner, Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The two Republicans — businessman John Cox of Rancho Santa Fe (San Diego County) and Assemblyman Travis Allen, RHuntington Beach (Orange County) — sniped at each other for everything from being “immature” to contributing money to Democrats, and each claimed to be doing more to support a
proposed ballot measure to repeal California’s new gas tax.
The field neatly cleaved into those who support President Trump (Republicans) and who don’t (Democrats.) And kind of like it is in California — where 66 percent of voters disapprove of Trump, according to a Berkeley IGS Poll — there was no middle ground.
“Clearly he’s a racist,” said former state schools chief Delaine Eastin, the self-described “optimist” and only candidate on stage not to attack a fellow candidate.
But in response to the same question from a moderator about what they thought of Trump’s vulgar comments last week questioning the need to accept immigrants from Haiti and African countries, neither Cox nor Allen criticized the president.
“I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” Cox said. But as a lifelong businessman, “I don’t have the luxury of calling somebody a name and then deflecting the issue. We’ve got to focus on things that will make life quality for the people of California, not demonize the president.”
Cox supported Trump on immigration, saying “We need to build a wall.”
Allen also declined to criticize Trump and drew a smattering of boos when he said California must “never be a sanctuary state.
“These are people who came into the country illegally and are in our communities committing crimes,” Allen said. “They are now going to be sheltered by Jerry Brown’s sanctuary state ”
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa tore into Allen, pointing to a National Academy of Sciences study that found immigrants commit fewer crimes per capita than native-born Americans. “What you say is absolutely wrong,” Villraigosa said.
Nearly all of the candidates, save for Eastin, found a more common enemy in Newsom, who led a December Berkeley IGS Poll with 26 percent of the vote over Villaraigosa with 17 percent. Allen and Cox each had 9 percent, Eastin and state Treasure John Chiang, each had 5 percent. A seventh candidate, former Sacramento-area GOP Rep. Doug Ose, just entered the race and wasn’t measured in the poll.
The other candidates focused on Newsom’s support for single-payer health care. Villaraigosa said that while he is “philosophically for it,” that as someone on Medicare, he worried about abruptly switching health care systems without a plan to guide the transition. Turning to Newsom, he said, “You don’t have a plan.”
“You’ve got to have a plan, everybody,” Villaraigosa said. “Anybody who is telling you that we should do it without a plan is selling you snake oil.”
Newsom countered, saying that “Antonio just mentioned that he’s on Medicare. Isn’t that interesting — (Medicare is) a single-payer plan in this country that is working. That brings down the costs. That allows government to use its leverage and purchasing power.”
Eastin offered unequivocal support for a single-payer plan, saying she would convene the best minds to make the system work. “It’s about having will,” she said. “I have the will to make this happen.”
Chiang said he supports such a plan, but chided Newsom for not offering details.
“You have to ask Gavin, ‘Hhow much are you going to increase payroll taxes?’ ” Chiang said. “‘Are we going to support businesses in the state of California? Are we going to make it difficult to do business in California?’ ”
Cox and Allen wholly opposed a single-payer plan.
“Why stop at health care? Why don’t we have single-payer food? Why don’t we have singlepayer housing?” Cox said. “I’ll tell you why. Because the free market is absolutely the best way.”
Eastin continually returned her focus to how improving the state’s education system would solve other problems, including the high incarceration rate. Cox criticized Newsom for receiving the endorsement of the state’s teachers union, saying it is an example of the cronyism that cripples Sacramento.
While Newsom touted San Francisco’s schools as being the best urban district in the state, Villraigosa pointed out that the achievement gap between African American students and others is the worst in the state. “We actually have a real achievement gap,” there, he said.
The other candidates focused on Gavin Newsom’s support for single-payer health care.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the clear front-runner in the race for governor, has become the target of criticism from other candidates in the June 5 election.
GOP candidate John Cox (left) with Rudy Mendoza, mayor of Woodlake (Tulare County), last year.