How Clinton and Sanders line up on California issues

FILE: U.S. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders participate in the MSNBC Democratic Candidates Debate at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Feb. 4, 2016.
FILE: U.S. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders participate in the MSNBC Democratic Candidates Debate at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Feb. 4, 2016.
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

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While Donald Trump has a presumptive lock on the Republican presidential nomination, there’s still a fevered race underway between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

The two have been battling across the country, but many will be watching Tuesday's key primary in California, where some issues resonate more sharply than elsewhere given the state's diverse makeup.

A recent Field Poll found that registered voters in California rank education, health care, terrorist threats, Social Security, clean air and water, Supreme Court appointments, keeping the U.S. out of war, equal pay for women and immigration among their top concerns. 

But by far, the top issue on the minds of Californians is jobs and the economy. Three in four of the likely voters surveyed named it as their top issue in this year's presidential election, according to the Field Poll.

Recent horse race polls show Clinton and Sanders are in a tight race. A Field Poll released Thursday shows 45 percent of likely Democratic primary voters back Clinton while 43 percent support Sanders. A Public Policy Institute of California poll released last week also showed the two in a virtual tie, with Clinton leading Sanders 46 percent to 44 percent in support.

California voters won't get a chance to see the Democratic candidates in a face-off on issues of state concern. Clinton backed out of a Fox News debate with Sanders that was scheduled in California.

Had the debate proceeded on, here's how each candidate might have addressed key issues that matter to Californians based on the positions they have already staked out: 

Economy and jobs

During back-to-back rallies held last week in Riverside, Clinton and Sanders talked of lowering unemployment and increasing wages. 

"Now think about an America where, instead of having 30 or 40 percent youth unemployment, those kids are learning trades so they can rebuild their communities," Sanders said. 

Both candidates support increasing the federal minimum wage. Sanders has been clear from the beginning of his campaign that he wants a $15 federal minimum wage. Clinton's campaign website says she supports a $12 an hour federal minimum wage, but she's also moved to the left on the issue over the last several months and has voiced support for groups advocating the $15 an hour minimum.

"I want to raise the federal minimum wage and get people out of poverty," Clinton said in Riverside.

Sanders has also gone further, calling for guaranteed vacation time for workers. Clinton has proposed a guaranteed 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.

Health care

The candidates have slightly different takes on the issue of health care. Sanders supports universal coverage administered by the federal government, also known as a single-payer health care system. Clinton is calling for improvements to the Affordable Care Act and has called Sanders' plan unrealistic.

"Before there was something called Obamacare, there was something called Hillarycare. I am committed to doing this," Clinton has said in campaign speeches.

Sanders has gone after the pharmaceutical industry, stating: "California can lead the country in controlling the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs."

Terrorist threats/Keeping U.S. out of wars

Sanders views war as a last resort and emphasizes diplomacy on his website. He points to his vote against the Iraq war, an issue he's used to differentiate himself from Clinton, who voted in support of the war. 

Clinton has said she wants to defeat ISIS, and points to her work in creating sanctions against Iran and supporting President Obama's decision to hunt down Osama bin Laden. 

Social Security

In an April debate, Sanders and Clinton sparred over their views on Social Security. Sanders accused Clinton of not being clear on whether she would support lifting the cap on taxable income to extend the government's ability to provide Social Security benefits.

Sanders has called for lifting the cap so everyone who makes more than $250,000 a year pays the same percentage of their earnings into Social Security as middle class and working families.

Clinton said she would oppose any privatization or weakening of Social Security and would expand benefits for widows and those who left the workforce to care for a child or sick family member.

Clear air and water

Clinton's plan calls for installing 500 million solar panels across the country and reducing nationwide oil consumption by a third. She also wants to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels within the next decade. 

On his website, Sanders calls for transitioning away from fossil fuels and investing in electric vehicle charging infrastructure as well as high speed rail systems that connect states and strengthen transportation modes within cities. 

Supreme Court nominations

Both candidates support President Obama's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court of Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Hearings on his nomination have been held up by Senate Republicans.

In a debate in April, Sanders said he would want a nominee who had clearly committed to vote to overturn Citizens United, the legal decision that has allowed unlimited independent political expenditures.

Clinton did not go quite that far, but she did say Citizens United needs to be overturned and that she wants a court nominee who believes Roe vs. Wade is "settled law" establishing a woman's right to abortion.

Equal pay for women

Both candidates want to close the gender pay gap. They also both support the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help women fight workplace discrimination and require employers to demonstrate that wage differences are based on factors other than gender. If approved, the measure would update the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Clinton introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act as senator. 


During a Univision debate in March, both Clinton and Sanders said they would not deport immigrant children who arrive in the country illegally and they would end mass deportations that have occurred under the Obama administration. 

They also both support comprehensive immigration reform. 

Clinton is expected to win the pledged delegates she needs to secure the Democratic nomination early on Tuesday, when states holding their primary on the same day as California tabulate their results.

But a Sanders win in California would be a political blow to Clinton who once had a wide lead in the state. It would give him considerable clout going into the party's convention in Philadelphia July 25 to 28.  Both candidates have spent considerable time and resources campaigning up and down California and via advertising in the last few weeks.

Their intense contest is one reason California has seen a surge in voter registration in recent months. About 1.8 million people have registered for the first time or re-registered online since the beginning of the year, according to Secretary of State's office spokesman Sam Mahood. The voter registration deadline was May 23.

A large percentage of new registrants are young people, who could prove critical in the primary and especially beneficial to Sanders if they follow through and cast ballots.

We talked about the election with several millennials, including two who are backing opposing Democratic candidates.

Logan Smith, 23, lives in Santa Clarita and supports Sanders. One of Smith's top issues is income inequality. He works 40 hours a week at two jobs while juggling a full-time class load at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, and he struggles to pay tuition.

"I used to work for one of the largest theater chains in the country, and I was making 87 cents above minimum wage to do the job of the management with a staff of 60 people," he said.

Smith feels capitalism is failing him and many of his friends — those who work long hours at jobs with low pay and no benefits.

"It’s not like a high skilled job or anything. I don’t expect a dental plan or anything. But, you know, enough money to put gas in my car and eat," Smith said.

He also likes Sanders’ views on immigration reform and decriminalizing some drugs.

"If you look at Bernie Sanders and you look at every bad decision that our government has made over the past two decades, Bernie Sanders has almost 100 percent of the time been on the right side of that decision," Smith said.

Not all young people agree with Smith. Nineteen-year-old Alexa Abadee of Encino said she thinks Sanders’ ideas just aren’t realistic.

"I think that Hillary is a great candidate," Abadee said. "Hillary Clinton is very polished because of her experience in the political field. I'm not saying Bernie Sanders doesn’t have experience but he doesn't have the same type of experience." 

Abadee said it's been hard at times to back Clinton given the wave of support for Sanders that’s swept college campuses. At Chapman University in Orange County, she's outnumbered in the school's Democratic Club by Sanders' supporters. There are only three or four Clinton supporters out of 25 to 30 members, she said.

But she sees Clinton as the stronger negotiator and as someone more qualified to lead the country's foreign policy.

There is one issue that Abadee’s especially passionate about: funding for Planned Parenthood.

"As a woman, I believe it’s important to have access to things, such as contraception, medical care," Abadee said. "That’s a right that should not be taken away from women and people who need those services." 

If you’re voting in the Democratic primary and are still weighing the views of the two candidates, you can visit our Voter Guide for more on where Clinton and Sanders stand on the issues.

This story has been updated.