With the California Primary now only days away, the California Globe takes a look at the six top performing candidates in the Democratic and Republican primaries, as well as where they stand on the five biggest issues Californian’s face today.
Most recent elected position: Senator (I-VT) 2007 – Present
Previous elected positions: Congressman (I-VT) 1991 – 2007, Mayor of Burlington, VT 1981 – 1989
Current poll numbers for California: 33.5% of the Democratic Primary (1st)
Where he stands: By far the most left-leaning of the major candidates running on the Democratic ticket, Sanders is also currently winning nationally. Wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada has proven that Sanders now has even greater minority support than once thought and that many voters are now willing to take a chance on Sanders.
His age is seen to be a major factor in the race, as at age 78, he is the oldest candidate to ever win a state in the primaries, let alone come out ahead as the current leader. With even centrist Democrats now embracing farther left and even socialist issues than before, Sanders is currently the man to beat on the campaign. He’s entering Super Tuesday with unforeseen momentum, although this has been somewhat dampened by Biden’s win on Saturday in South Carolina.
Sanders on Californian issues:
- Homelessness: Sanders has proposed a national rent cap and rent control to alleviate homelessness not only in California but also the nation. Plans for new affordable housing include $70 billion (with a B) plan to repair and decarbonize current public housing, as well as build more in the 2020’s. And that’s on top of a $2.5 trillion (with a T) plan to build 10 million more affordable units nationwide and an expansion of section 8 housing. Basically he’s planning to alleviate homelessness by having more housing.
- Healthcare reform: His plan includes capping prescription drug costs, instituting a national single-payer policy called ‘Medicare for All’, removing all networks and most associated costs like co-pays, and medicare expansion. While there are numerous concerns over such a plan, ranging from tens of thousands of lost insurance jobs to possible declination of care, the main point on this, like most of Sanders plans, is how it will be paid. The answer is taxes. Much higher taxes. Most widespread of these would be a 4% income based tax for those that make more than $29,000 a year and a 7.5% income based premium from employers. Americans are pretty divided on this, but to the surprise of many, more are supporting the Democratic plan than the Republican plan.
- Housing Crisis: See Homelessness.
- AB 5: He’s all for it, but he also hasn’t weighed in too much on it since problems surrounding it began to swell in December.
- Education: Sanders has been for greater money going into public schools, but by far the most controversial parts of his education plan is the erasure of student debt and tuition-free colleges. Any student loan interests in the future would also be capped at 1.88%. For Californians, the impact would be all over the place. Sanders plans to pay for the plan by having a ‘Wall Street tax‘ on stock and bond trades, trading increased costs there for more money for younger people early on. 57% of Americans don’t want this, but compared to support levels for his other plans, education is doing pretty good among voters.
Most recent elected position: Mayor of New York City (R/D) 2002-2013
Previous elected positions: NA
Current poll numbers for California: 11.3% of Democratic Primary (4th)
Where he stands: Bloomberg has bet it all on Super Tuesday, as so far the results have been mixed. He’s shot up to being one of the top candidates in the race and is projected to be pretty high in polls, but he’s faltering elsewhere. A massive ad campaign is turning people away from him, his history of relations with minorities has been exposing many skeletons in his closet, poor debate performances have turned off many voters, and he has been criticized for trying to buy the election. Even fellow billionaires Tom Steyer and Donald Trump have largely managed to dodge that accusation.
Bloomberg has failed to shed his ‘billionaire’ image, and many Californians have taken objection to his ad blitz. Many are also upset about how New York-centric they have been. He does come in with experience as Mayor of New York in the wake of 9/11, but he has only come so far in the race. He needs a stellar performance on Super Tuesday, as well as carrying a state or two, to have any chance in later rounds with New York stalwart primaries in places such as Florida, New Jersey, and the empire state itself.
Bloomberg on Californian issues:
- Homelessness: Bloomberg wants to ‘loosen zoning laws‘ to build affordable housing where it’s needed most. That includes wealthier suburbs. And if they don’t comply they might have funds withheld by HUD. He also wants to install homeless programs he instituted in NYC like rapid rehousing and integrating homeless and community groups in finding shelter. Plus double homeless spending. But it’s debatable how well this will work as Bloomberg praised California’s programs earlier this year despite major homeless problems still existing and actually caused the homeless problem in New York to worsen.
- Healthcare reform: He pretty much copied the plans of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, added some rural protections, made the public option more of a choice, and took out the part about how it was all going to be paid for. He later added that this would all be paid for by ‘customer premiums’ of the government plan. As more than one political commentator has noted, his health plan picked and chose the ‘best’ from all the other plans.
- Housing Crisis: In addition to building more housing and zoning law changes, Bloomberg wants to bring in more rental assistance for low-income renters, build hundreds of thousands of new units, and create a program to have more renters become homeowners. Uniquely among the candidates he wants to curb any and all redlining in housing, as he has said that it was a part of the cause of the 2008 recession and housing bust. Any housing speech with Bloomberg brings this up prominently and it’s been one of the few issues that has had the other candidates scramble on catching up to him with.
- AB 5: Bloomberg supports it whole-heartedly, but nothing beyond that in recent weeks.
- Education: Bloomberg wants to privatize public education even more than Donald Trump. He wants to spread charter schools across the nation despite more and more Californians being opposed to such schools. This part is notably missing from his website, which instead lists plans like greater and more affordable child care and another virtual carbon copy of a Sanders plan, this time in making colleges largely tuition-free and affordable for the rest. And there would be no debt-forgiveness with his plan for those who go to for-profit colleges. Between preschool and college it’s pretty much a Republican plan.
Most recent elected position: Senator of Massachusetts (D-MA) 2013 – Present
Previous elected positions: NA, but did serve as the Chairwoman for the Congressional Oversight Panel 2008 – 2010
Current poll numbers for California: 13.9% of Democratic Primary (2nd)
Where she stands: Warren was widely expected to win…something at this point only a few months ago, but she has only consistently lagged behind other candidates. She’s currently 2nd in California, but that can easily change following her South Carolina performance. Her appeal has been narrowed in recent months as well due to other candidates like Sanders and Biden closing in on her core support demographic, and she has also been dodging the scandal over her Native American heritage for quite some time.
She does have a fair amount of minority and women backing her within the party, and her debate performances have been mostly stellar. Her campaign has promised to go to the convention no matter what happens, but her Super Tuesday performance could change those plans. For California voters she’ll be the middle ground candidate between the more left leaning Bernie Sanders and the more centrist Biden and Buttigieg.
Warren on Californian issues:
- Homelessness: Warren wants to pump $500 billion into new homeless services, programs, shelters, and affordable housing unit rehabilitation over the next ten years. Some measures she is proposing helps renters and homeowners more, such as keeping evictions off of personal records and credit score histories, as well as taking 10% off of rent nationwide. But others focus on those most likely to be affected by homelessness including veterans, LGBTQ youth, and transgender individuals. She’s also the only candidate going after police enforcement, planning to deny federal funds to police departments that arrest homeless people. Like many of the other candidates she wants to attack homelessness from the housing angle.
- Healthcare reform: In her first 100 days Warren has said she wants to go after healthcare. After reversing Trump policies to the ACA/Obamacare, Warren would expand and move on to creating ‘Medicare for All‘. Children under 18 would be free, as would families who make less than $51,000 a year. She also wants to largely cut off medical lobbyists, insurance groups, and pharmaceutical companies, putting on many restrictions, including taxing excessive lobbying and limiting campaign donations. The total cost of giving every American free or greatly reduced healthcare? $20.5 trillion over ten years, with costs being estimated by independent groups estimating that it could be as high as $59 trillion. She has said funding would not come from middle class Americans, but rather it would come from employers, wealth taxes, and corporation taxes.
- Housing Crisis: Coming off the shared programs with homelessness, Warren also wants to build new public housing, create 3 million new affordable housing units partially of the aforementioned $500 billion funding plan, make eviction harder, and force landlords to accept government housing vouchers
- AB 5: She wrote an entire editorial to the Sacramento Bee about why AB 5 is good and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the author of AB 5, wrote on Facebook gushing about it. So short answer, yes, she’s for it.
- Education: Warren is a big supporter of public schools and wants a large-scale reinvestment in them. Her big plan is to raise ‘hundreds of billions of dollars’ by adding a wealth tax on people who have amassed $50 million or more. school privatization would be halted under her policy. Underfunded schools would get $450 billion over ten years, $50 billion in infrastructure repairs, and school lunch debts would be canceled. Her program gets more comprehensive, but as someone with a more academic background, she has the most detailed plans by far and is giving estimated prices for everything, which most other candidates haven’t done. Her plan is also by far the most expensive.
Note: Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the Democratic race on Sunday but is still included here as he is still currently on the ballot in California, he is tracking higher than other Democratic candidates still on the ballot, and he will get at least a few percentage points due to absentee and early balloting. His support and possible delegates could also help another candidate win should there be a too close to call race.
Most recent elected position: Mayor of South Bend, IN (D) 2012 – 2020
Previous elected positions: NA
Current poll numbers for California: 8.2% of Democratic Primary (5th)
Where he stands: Mayor Pete is the youngest candidate in the race by a few decades and also comes in as the first major LGBT candidate running for the nomination. A surprise win in Iowa as well as subsequent strong showings has made him a top contender in the race, and he has been garnering a huge and critical based of Midwesterners and Midwestern ex-pats, as well as those that live in the Western part of the country simply because he isn’t from the East Coast.
He was leading in California a month ago but has since trailed off due to the rise of Bernie, South Bend police brutality issues coming back up and costing critical black support, and Bloomberg’s Super Tuesday blitz. At this point he’s likely not going to win the nomination, but his name is now nationally known, and he can make that into a good Gubernatorial run or finagle a cabinet position out of it. That is if he doesn’t surprise again and win some more states.
Buttigieg on Californian issues:
- Homelessness: Early on, Buttigieg didn’t have the best homeless record from his time as Mayor. His current presidential plans includes building 2 million housing units for 7 million people, expand housing assistance through a 50% low-income housing tax credit, and several billion dollars going toward permanent housing for chronic homeless people, and the expansion of shelters and rapid shelters for homeless youth. He has also come out against criminalizing homelessness.
- Healthcare reform: A big part of Buttigieg’s rise to popularity has come through his healthcare plan, known as ‘Medicare for all who want it‘. Basically the government option is added to the marketplace, but because everyone nationwide pays in, it would be significantly cheaper and would be the most affordable option. The cost would be only $1.5 trillion, almost entirely funded by the elimination of corporate tax cuts. However, health insurance would be mandatory, and anyone without insurance would be automatically enrolled, meaning millions of Americans would be back-billed for thousands of dollars. All in all his plan would sit somewhere between the ACA and the Warren/Sanders plans in terms of universal healthcare.
- Housing Crisis: See homelessness above. But adding to that, Buttigieg wants to add an ‘affordable 30 year fixed rate mortgage‘ and other programs that mainly focus on families. He also wants a $4 billion program to help 1 million people become first time homeowners.
- AB 5: Buttigieg was at an AB 5 rally in August throwing his support behind the bill. He reaffirmed his support last month in a tweet.
- Education: Buttigieg’s education policy will give a teacher pay raise and will go after charter schools. It’s an issue that’s a little personal to Pete, whose husband is a junior high teacher in Indiana, and it does show. Buttigieg would also give more funding to schools in poorer districts, a $10 billion equity fund for early education, and like most of the other candidates, would go after school segregation issues.
Most recent elected position: Vice President of the United States (D) 2009 – 2017
Previous elected positions: Senator (D-DE) 1973 – 2009, New Castle County, DE Councilman (D) 1970 – 1972
Current poll numbers for California:13.4% of Democratic Primary (3rd)
Where he stands: A year ago everybody knew former Vice President Joe Biden was going to be the Dems nominee in 2020. Today Biden stands with only a few lukewarm primary outcomes besides the South Carolina victory and sits at third place, both nationally and in California polling. He has always done well in blue collar areas and among minorities, but he didn’t foresee the in-roads Sanders made in Latino communities, nor did he expect Buttigieg to become the moderate of choice. Now he’s scrambling for a victory to get that momentum going again, although his victory South Carolina will help out a lot there.
Like most of the candidates, age has been a huge consideration, but more recently his fading star has come out of not creating enough excitement about his campaign. He’s always been seen as the safety candidate and lauded as the only person who could beat Trump, but now most Democratic candidates can claim that. Biden failed in 1988 and 2008 exactly because of this reason: he’s the generic candidate. It’s great quick out of the gate, but fading into the stretch he hasn’t changed all that much or challenged as much and it has showed. Biden needs to get California and a few other states to join his South Carolina win, but even now that seems like a tall order. But he did take away the momentum from Bernie going into Tuesday, so he still has a shot.
Biden on Californian issues:
- Homelessness: Biden’s plan for homelessness and housing is a bit odd. He wants to have a $640 billion housing plan complete with renter protections, but that will only really work in other states as California has already approved his proposed measures. Half of his plan is going to new, affordable housing while the other half includes more controversial measures such as section 8 housing being available for everyone. He’s also focusing on a demographic no other candidate is: those currently incarcerated. His plan includes housing 100% of them. All in all he’s following the basic housing tenets as his fellow candidates, but anything different is either already behind the times or the most progressive measure in the field.
- Healthcare reform: Biden’s plan is similar to Buttigieg’s: Bring back and build on Obamacare/ACA, create a ‘Medicare-as-an-option’ healthcare choice, and expand coverage. The big difference is that Biden wouldn’t make health care mandatory, although people would go back to being penalized with the return of the individual mandate. Biden’s plan is also the cheapest plan out of any of the Democratic candidates: $750 billion over ten years. A big part of Biden’s psyche here is not wanting to get rid of Obamacare, something his former boss worked incredibly hard to get passed. It may also give him the edge in securing his endorsement should things get close closer to the convention.
- Housing Crisis: Again, housing and homelessness are tied closely to one another in California. Homelessness above pretty much covers it, but it should be noted that Biden’s plan, once again, takes some interesting twists and turns.
- AB 5: For months Biden didn’t side one way or another on AB 5, flexing his stance as a moderate in the race. He only started to support it in late October, a reluctance that may help him should AB 5 continue to fall apart.
- Education: Biden’s education plan is one that touches upon every other candidates plans. He wants higher teacher pay, a new battle against school segregation, an increase of mental and physical health workers at schools, a renewed focus on community colleges, and the creation of more financial support for college students. His plan, which includes a free two years of community college, would cost $750 billion a year.
Incumbent Donald Trump
Most recent elected position: President of the United States (R) 2017 – Present
Previous elected positions: NA
Current poll numbers for California: 90+% of Republican Primary (1st)
Where he stands: With an approval rating that has not been above 45% since around the time of his press honeymoon in 2017, President Trump faces a tough 2020 contest. Every Democratic candidate on here is currently beating him in polls, with Bernie Sanders in particular shown to be holding a victory even within the bounds of margin of error. But Trump had heard this before in 2016, and he managed to win on electoral votes, so he is by no means out.
He hasn’t really started campaigning too, too hard yet, but he needs to get past several issues to stay competitive. He’ll be facing heat from the impeachment proceedings, as well as numerous national and international policy decisions. He has a strong base, as his approval ratings have never shown to make any long-term dramatic dips, but he needs to win voters beyond that, especially with recent poll numbers showing him down. A strong economy going in would help, although with the coronavirus currently causing worldwide stock market strife, now isn’t the time to claim that. It’s still way too early in the race to make any call, but the Republicans know they need to start making game plans now. But a solid base guaranteeing an automatic 45% of the vote in November isn’t a bad start.
Trump on Californian issues:
- Homelessness: Since September, Trump has fought hard against the state concerning homelessness. He first announced EPA interventions in September over homeless conditions in San Francisco and by December it was full-on federal intervention over the crisis. Governor Newsom and many state lawmakers haven’t exactly liked this, and have fought back against Trump’s plans. They include tearing down tent cities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as bumping up the number of police to assess the situation. Despite being very controversial, Trump officials are already starting to work with Los Angeles officials in creating new shelters in the city and freeing up land for even more to be built. Democrats are going to point to his plan on being cruel, especially in regards to increased police and tent tear-downs, but this could be Trump’s hidden ace: They’ve just been talking about building new shelters and housing, while the Trump administration is actually doing it.
- Healthcare reform: The Trump administration largely tore down Obamacare and has eschewed any type of national healthcare in favor of greatly reducing the costs of many insurance plans. He’s also eliminating likely health care campaign topics like surprise billing by trying to get rid of it. The big thing is going to be the tens of millions of Americans currently without healthcare or without adequate healthcare, closely followed by the gigantic amount of medical debt in the US. Market premiums are also going up, and critics have come back with counterpoints to a lot of Trump Administration healthcare points. This is a big issue where both Republican and Democrat plans have pluses and minuses. For many voters it may come down to something as simple as a healthcare debate between Trump and the Democratic candidate.
- Housing Crisis: Trump has been pushing for adding work requirements for cheaper rent programs and has backed the building of some housing, but like the Democrats, it has been mainly tied in with homeless relief programs. Skyrocketing rent has, however, been going into red states at an accelerated rate. Come debate season, Trump should have a counter plan to the Democrats regarding the growing nationwide housing crisis, and that will inevitably effect California one way or another.
- AB 5: President Trump personally has not weighed in on AB 5 yet, but considering that his administration called gig workers ‘independent contractors’ in the first place, you can bet he’s opposed to it.
- Education: Trump, along with Education Secretary Betsy Devos, have been making more and more cuts to public education since 2017. Both are for school choice – public, private, charter – and are evening the playing field. Trump is even trying to limit federal control on education in favor of more state control. While this is radically different from Democratic candidate plans, the Trump Administration is also trying to reduce student debt, and their proposals actually go farther in debt reduction than Bloomberg’s plan. It looks like another year of public v. charter battles, but some of Trump’s education policies may confound some Democrats.