On Wednesday, four major candidates in the running for the 2021 Gubernatorial Recall election debated for an hour at the KCRA television studios in Sacramento.
Republicans who have previously been in debates – 2018 GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) – met with first time debater Democrat YouTuber and real estate broker Kevin Paffrath for about an hour. There they discussed some of the hot button issues currently on the minds of Californians, as well as criticizing both embattled Governor Gavin Newsom and leading recall candidate and talk show host Larry Elder.
One of the most discussed topics of the debate concerned vaccine mandates and what each candidate would do about them.
Faulconer noted that while the best way to combat COVID-19 was to get vaccinated, Newsom had been wrong to add mandates and more regulations. Instead, Faulconer said that more education about the subject was needed instead of mandates.
“Our state is very big, it’s very diverse. That’s the wrong approach,” said Faulconer on the mandates. “Our schools should have been open this past semester. My daughter should have been in school this last semester just like everybody else’s kids across California – in the classroom, safely learning with great teachers. Zoom was no substitute. We had a governor that didn’t understand that and we’re still dealing with those consequences now.”
Kiley and Cox also agreed with Faulconer. Cox said that while he believes that the vaccine works, mask and vaccine mandates simply don’t work in California. Kiley noted a similar non-mandate stance, adding that the state’s delay caused California to be the last state to have schools reopen, with Newsom all the while having his own children stay in school during this time through private schools.
“I would take the approach of other states in putting trust in it’s citizens,” explained Kiley. “If you look at the issue of masks, we’re part of a minority of states with a statewide mandate and you look at other countries like the United Kingdom, they said they’re not going to do masks for elementary school children, they’re not going to do it because the harm outweighs the benefit.”
Paffrath, meanwhile, stated that he does support mandates when not on a Governor’s level. He also focused more on having masks fit everyone properly and adding in HEPA filtration into places that need it to reduce COVID-19 risk.
Drought and affordability
When the question turned to how to make the state more affordable and improve the lives of Californians, each candidate gave a wildly different answer. Faulconer proposed huge tax cuts, noting that California has the highest income tax percentage in the country and that permanent tax relief was needed to alleviate it.
Cox gave a different approach, saying that spending was way too high and that audits of every government agency within California, beginning with the EDD, would be ordered by him if elected.
“This state is a mismanaged mess,” said Cox. “His pandemic management was an inconsistent disaster. We don’t have water. We live in fear of fires. Crime is rising. Housing prices are out of sight. Taxes are out of sight. The homeless problem has only gotten worse. We’ve got to stop with these politicians and celebrities and get a businessman in there.”
Paffath followed by saying that he would make sweeping reforms and not have one homeless person on the streets in the entire state with 60 days of being sworn into office. Under his plan, emphasis on affordable housing, improved transportation, and more homeless measures would keep homeless numbers down.
Finally, Kiley proceeded to point out that high amounts of corruption and a focus on lobbyists and special interests had broken the state, specifically emphasizing the high budget and low quality of life.
“It’s about the failure of our government to do the most basic things like manage our forests, and the result, of course, is that communities are at risk, and we keep having these catastrophic events,” added Kiley on Wednesday. “Everything has continued to get worse. The quality of life in California has continued to decline. That is the story of modern California as epitomized by Gavin Newsom. That we sacrifice the most and get the least in return.”
Questions over water and drought management also took center stage on Wednesday.
Faulconer and Kiley both proposed more storage and supply increases to combat future droughts, with Kiley favoring a constitutional amendment to increase the water supply and better save water, and Faulconer wanting to build more reservoirs.
Conversely, Cox and Paffrath gave more out of the box solutions. Cox said that water issue was primarily a management problem and that it could be alleviated by a combination of desalination plants, water recycling, and more reservoirs. Paffrath countered with a more radical solution: declaring an emergency and working with the federal government to pipe in water from the Mississippi River across the country.
While all the candidates on stage went after Governor Newsom on pretty much every subject, the candidates also frequently went after Larry Elder, who did not attend the debate due to only wanting to debate Newsom one-on-one. Faulconer challenged Elder the most on Wednesday, in particular bringing up recent news stories of Elder allegedly threatening women in the past.
“His attack on working women is unconscionable,” said Falconer when lobbed a question about workers. “I’m going to support your right to raise a family, to have a career. Unlike what Larry Elder is talking about, I’m going to make sure that California’s daughters have the same opportunities as California’s sons. We need a governor that’s going to stand up for working women and knows that every woman in this state can have a career, can raise a family.”
As with the previous debates held earlier this month, only around half of the invited candidates decided to attend. Newsom has refused to attend the debates, with both Elder and reality TV show star Caitlyn Jenner not agreeing to a debate unless it is with Newsom himself. Former Congressman Doug Ose had previously agreed to the debate but had to drop out of the debate and race due to suffering a heart attack last week.
At least one more debate is likely in the coming weeks as the September 14th election date comes closer and closer into view.