Following weeks of pressure from both the media and from other politicians and lawmakers, California Governor Gavin Newsom agreed to debate his Republican Gubernatorial opponent Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) earlier this week.
Unlike in 2018, in which Newsom committed pretty early on to debate challenger John Cox, more than likely due to neither candidate being the incumbent for office, and last year in which he refused and was under no obligation to join in debates with recall candidates, Newsom stayed largely silent on the matter of a debate with Dahle. While Newsom has been busy in the last few months laying the groundwork for a possible 2024 presidential run, going after policies in red states in increasingly flamboyant ways, staying up on a large number of crises in the state, and looking over bills to either sign or veto, little has been done for the Gubernatorial campaign itself. This has been in large part due to his current commanding 27 point margin over Dahle, with recent polls showing both a 52%-25% lead and a 58%-31% lead.
But calls for a debate, with reasons varying from tradition to political accountability, to having Californians hear different viewpoints, have been pressed more and more. Finally, earlier this week, after Dahle and other politicians began asking the Newsom campaign about a debate, the Governor finally committed to one.
I’ll accommodate Newsom:
✅ He can be in an A/C building w/ his sweater.
✅We don’t have to debate flex alerts, gas prices, ZEVs, French Laundry, shutting schools down, crime, & all things pertaining to CA.
✅ He can dial @RonDeSantisFL for help since he’s fighting with Biden. pic.twitter.com/JfOX4iyAUm
— Senator Brian Dahle (@BrianDahleCA) September 10, 2022
“I’ll accommodate Newsom: He can be in an A/C building w/ his sweater,” the Dahle campaign tweeted earlier this week before the debate was agreed to. “We don’t have to debate flex alerts, gas prices, ZEVs, French Laundry, shutting schools down, crime, & all things pertaining to CA. He can dial [Florida Governor Ron] DeSantis for help since he’s fighting with Biden.”
On Wednesday, Newsom responded to a question in a news conference about a debate by saying “Yeah, happy to do it and we’ll do it just as we did the last time I ran for office. So, I look forward to it.”
While details are not yet known, with only some tweets from reporters pointing to possible locations and moderators, the fact that Newsom said yes has energized the seemingly dormant Dahle campaign in recent days.
“I’m excited about it,” said Senator Dahle in an LA Times interview earlier this week. “I hope he’ll do it. You know, he said he would, but we’re trying to get the details. I’ll do it anywhere. I’m pretty stoked about it. I have one condition. I want it televised. I would love for it to be on TV and at least have cameras.”
With Dahle now to being allowed to go toe-to-toe with Newsom, and the Governor getting a big platform to highlight where he stands on things going into the mid 2020’s, many political experts in California are excited to see the two debate on stage.
“Dahle debating has been limited to just Northern California, so many are curious as to how he will perform on such a large stage,” noted Justine Rollins, a political advisor and debate organizer, to the Globe on Friday. “Not to mention that Dahle will be one of the few GOP candidates in California to bring up issues and viewpoints not usually seen in the largely Dem state, so it’s a real opportunity. It’s all but impossible right now for Dahle to win the race, but he has the chance to throw some jabs at Newsom and bring up sme things and statistics that Newsom really likes to avoid talking about.”
“Newsom has a chance to build for a 2024 run and will get some much needed debate time. He is not a strong debater and was shown to struggle with Cox in 2018. Look up some of his debates from his time in San Francisco, and you will see that this has never really been his strong suit. A big complaint from voters is that he smiles too much, for example, from these debates and sometimes it can look like he is making light of serious topics. He has a lot to work on, especially if he is going toe to toe with President Biden, Governor DeSantis, and others in a few years time. Debating Dahle can help that. Dahle can very well keep tripping him up, and the Newsom campaign really doesn’t want that, even with such a huge lead in the polls right now.”
“Both candidates will have different plans in the debate, with Dahle happy to have the opportunity and ready to go after him, and Newsom looking down the road and needing refinement. Dahle is still largely an unknown remember, and there isn’t much the Newsom campaign can look back to for a plan of attack on him or even generate likely answers during debate prep. He can be seen as a bit of a wild card here, and that means that Dahle can easily fire back with unexpected answers and Newsom will need to think on his feet more.”
As of Friday, details such as the time, location, moderator, and outlets are still being worked on for the Gubernatorial debate.
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