Governor Gavin Newsom and Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) went back and forth in the lone gubernatorial debate Sunday night in San Francisco, touching on numerous hot-button issues in California including homelessness, abortion rights, gas prices, education, climate change, reparations, and drought.
Throughout the KQED-hosted debate on Sunday, Dahle went after Newsom numerous time over spending more time and money out of state, as well as for putting in a presidential run over his duties as Governor.
“I want to start out by thanking the governor for taking time out from going forward on his dream of being president of the United States and actually coming to California and having a debate,” Dahle fired on Sunday.
Newsom responded that he had gone out of state and spent money on ads in paces such as Florida and Texas to defend LGBT rights and push back against GOP policies in red states. He also specifically noted that he had not gone outside of California very often in the past several months.
“I have barely been out of state,” countered Newsom. “I was out of state for a few hours to take on Dahle’s party and his leader of his party, Donald Trump. They’re attacking women’s right to choose, how they’re banning books in an unprecedented manner, how they’re banning speech and rewriting history. This is a serious moment in American history, California history. There is demonization of the gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender community. I’ve had enough, so I’ll proudly, happily stand up.”
However, the response also caught Newsom in a bind, with a moderator asking holding him to an answer on if he would promise to fully serve out a term of Governor to 2026 and not run for President in 2024, with Newsom responding “Yes.”
The largest part of the debate centered around spending and homelessness. In response to a moderator question, Newsom conceded that the homeless issue had grown under his first term but noted that he now had a plan in place. According to the Governor, there is now $15.3 billion going towards numerous homeless endeavors in the state, such as more housing through Project Roomkey, Project Homekey and CARE Courts. In addition, he also promised not funding local governments who are not giving results on curbing homelessness.
“When I got here, there was no homeless strategy, no plan, no resources of any merit. Today there’s $15.3 billion for a real strategy, a real plan and there’s accountability for the first time,” explained Newsom. “It’s unconscionable what’s happened in the streets and sidewalks. We’re not going to hand out money any longer unless local governments can produce real results. Bottom line, the last two years with COVID and all of the headwinds there was a laissez-faire attitude in terms of addressing what was happening on the streets and sidewalks.”
In response, Dahle said that Newsom still hasn’t solved anything, noting the miserable situation in San Francisco and instead laying down his own homeless plan that includes instituting a state of emergency, getting rid of encampments nearby schools, and putting more money into state and county mental health programs.
“The theme of this debate is that the governor has all this great talk, but the policies don’t actually fix the problem,” retorted Dahle. “He said in 2003 when he was the mayor of San Francisco, he was going to end homelessness. I just drove down the street here today, stepping over people, defecating on the street and needles. He hasn’t fixed it.”
“Name one thing that you’ve solved? At the end of the day, he delivers zero.”
Inflation and high gas prices
Inflation and high prices came up during another round of questions, with Dahle and Newsom both focusing specifically on a proposed gas tax. At first, Newsom said that he would specifically be going after oil companies for charging more at the pump, even saying that he would be calling for a “windfall tax” on oil companies during a special session in December.
“They’re ripping us off, they’re ripping you off. They’re ripping every one of us off and we’re going after these companies and we’re getting serious about the stress and pain Californians are faced with, added Newsom. “These companies are ripping you off and ripping us off. And that’s why I want to move forward with a price gouging penalty to address this abuse.”
In addition, Newsom noted that state inflation relief has already been going out this month through the $9.5 billion inflation relief check program.
In response, Dahle proposed a gas tax holiday, something that had been turned down by Democratic lawmakers in Sacramento earlier this year, in lieu of a windfall tax. Dahle noted that the holiday would down inflation, helping everyone from commuters to transportation companies shipping goods, and would do more than trying to spend their way out of the problem.
“Pausing the gas tax would be the fastest way you can actually help drive down inflation,” continued Senator Dahle. “I would make sure that they do it through their taxes that we push down.”
Dahle also then questioned Newsom’s high spending in general and where it has put California in the time he has been in office.
“What he’s done in the last four years is throw money at every single issue — more than there’s ever been,” said Dahle. “And what are the results for Californians? Higher gas prices, inflation, homelessness on our streets, our schools are failing. Our children and people are fleeing California.
“He throws money at everything, but what are the results?”
Drought and climate change
While Dahle hammered Newsom on these issues, the Governor fought back over the issues of drought and climate change.
Dahle pointed out that, as a farmer, he has seen the drought head on and that Newsom’s policies aren’t helping. Specifically, he touched on how expensive it could be for the average Californian.
“There’s nobody that cares more about climate than myself,” explained Dahle. “I’m a farmer. I’m in tune with the climate every day and it is changing, no doubt about it. But the policies that he’s put forth, aren’t actually doing anything to help the climate. He is driving up the cost of gasoline and electricity.”
“Newsom’s elite friends could afford Teslas at $70,000, but such vehicles are out of reach for most people.”
In response, Governor Newsom defended his water strategy, noting specifically that local water districts deciding on use was better than an overall state limit due to individual district needs, and pointed out a new $8.8 billion conservation plan coming into place. Newsom also took this time to fire back that Dahle had no real specifics involved in his plans.
“You’re just laying out talking points, but no substance,” said Newsom. “They are only a fog in terms of the dilution of reality and facts that you are promoting here.”
In education, both candidates both defended their plans for public education, as well as their decision to send their children to private school. For Newsom, he acknowledged tackling the teacher shortage as well as putting more funding into tutoring programs and setting up early college savings accounts for kindergartners.
“I’m passionate about public education. I’m a product of public education,” explained the Governor on his schooling decision for his kids. “My kids are going to school right behind our house, a Waldorf School, which is about creativity and critical thinking and the kinds of things that we’re advancing in our public education system. And the approach we’ve taken is to provide that same kind of choice and opportunity that my kids are afforded for every single one of our 6 million Californians going to public schools.”
Dahle, meanwhile, said that the curriculum of public schools had been harmed in recent years, focusing more on social issues rather than more substantive subjects. In addition to a renewed focus for public schools, Dahle bluntly said that private schools offer a better education in California.
“I have my daughter in private education because you and I both know that a better education is a private education because our schools are failing,” explained Dahle. “Our education system is failing our students, and parents know it, and they’re leaving. There’s no doubt they are.”
Newsom, Dahle in debate a few weeks before election day
Finally, the two also went at it on abortion. Senator Dahle said that while he would allow reproductive services to be funded, money going towards helping out-of-state women receive abortions would be axed. Governor Newsom reiterated his full support of abortion, including his backing of the right to reproductive freedom Proposition 1, and attacking Dahle on his stance.
“With respect, you’re not pro-life,” said Newsom. “You’re pro-government mandated birth. If you were pro-life, you would support our efforts to provide support for child care and preschool and prenatal programs.
“He does not support reproductive freedom, does not support reproductive choice regardless of rape, regardless of incest. He’s contributed $20,000 to defeat Proposition 1. My opponent believes that if some 10-year-old is raped by her father, she should be forced to bear her brother or sister. His position is extreme.”
Commentators noted on Sunday and Monday that while both candidates held their own, that the KQED moderators tended to give more pointed questions to Dahle, with the two only adding further questions to Newsom’s answers a handful of times. Others also noted that while both candidates conducted themselves well and brought a few pointed responses towards each other, Dahle held the slight edge for going after Newsom on spending and the results of his spending and Newsom not having a definite answer back.
“Senator Dahle was vague about some things, but he was at least finding the problems and offering solutions,” explained Justine Rollins, a political advisor and debate organizer, to the Globe on Monday. “Newsom just kept trying to steer around the spending issue. He kept bringing up all these programs he was putting money into, but he wasn’t so good on telling the success rate. He even said funding as going towards projects roomkey and homekey, and if you recall, they have been failures.”
“Newsom did nail Dahle on some things, but despite the moderators hounding him way more, Dahle came through and kept asking him what the moderators weren’t about his successes and his spending.
“Dahle still won’t win, but he did put Newsom on the ropes, brought up a lot of questions and statistics Newsom really does not like to have brought up on such a large stage, and is now nailed down to not running for President in 2024 lest he break his promise to the state now.”
The debate came only a few weeks before election day, which is on November 8, 2022.
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