Selecting the person for California’s top job is now in your hands. You have two candidates for the Nov. 6 general election: John Cox and Gavin Newsom.
The next governor’s to-do list is not for the faint of heart. He or she will need to keep the budget in check, prepare California for environmental disasters (see: our year-long wildfire season and overdue great earthquake) and manage a deep housing affordability crisis that’s led to rising rates of homelessness. Supporting early childhood development — an issue that's been gaining more attention among the candidates — will be part of the job. There’s also the matter of navigating the Golden State’s complicated relationship with the Trump administration.
As Gov. Jerry Brown so cheerfully bid his successor in his final State of the State address: “What’s out there is darkness, uncertainty, decline and recession. So good luck, baby.”
John Cox, Businessman (Republican)
Residence: Rancho Santa Fe
The basics: He’s a venture capitalist from Rancho Santa Fe who’s made unsuccessful runs for U.S. president and for Barack Obama’s Senate seat in Illinois. His main refrain: Get the special interests out of government. He’s a fan of free markets, fewer regulations and lower taxes. He made a big push to dramatically alter the way state lawmakers are elected, by creating as many as 12,000 “neighborhood councils” with their own representatives. They would in turn select a district representative at the state level. The proposal failed to make this year’s November ballot.
On health care: For Cox, it’s all about the free market. Cox says competition produces better results. He says a universal health care system would add a burden to the taxpayers, would affect the quality of care, and would attract an influx of newcomers seeking free health services. “[If] you want to make health care more expensive and rationed, turn it all over to the government,” he said at a gubernatorial town hall in January.
On housing: We need to get rid of burdensome regulations on home builders, Cox says. He wants to do away with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires developers to get projects assessed for their environmental impact. “It’s all a honeypot for trial lawyers to sue,” he said at a San Diego forum in March. He says he’d replace CEQA with reforms that will streamline the process of approving construction, and, if elected, he’d work to build 350,000 homes a year.
On homelessness: Tackling CEQA will also alleviate the homelessness problem, he says. But he also wants to use public-private partnerships with nonprofits or religious groups to provide services to homeless people. He also says the cost of prison operations is contributing to homelessness: “We can’t afford to keep people in jail, so we’re releasing them to the streets,” he said in January.
On immigration: No more sanctuary cities, Cox says. “We cannot have people who are here illegally committing crimes and being defended by taxpayer laws,” he said at a January forum. Cox supports Trump’s plan to build a border wall, but also says immigrants eligible for DACA should be protected.
Gavin Newsom, Lieutenant Governor (Democrat)
Residence: Marin County
The basics: He’s been second-in-command to Gov. Jerry Brown for the last eight years, and is a former mayor and district supervisor of San Francisco. He made his mark nationally in 2004 when, as San Francisco’s mayor, he began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That helped set off a maelstrom of debate around same-sex marriage that ultimately culminated in the 2015 Supreme Court decision to uphold the right of those couples to marry.
On housing: Build, build, build. Newsom touts a goal of building 3.5 million new homes in California by the year 2025 to address the affordability crisis. Newsom also supports the Gov. Brown-backed $4 billion bond for affordable housing projects on the November ballot. He’s also talked about the need to tackle the housing problem through regulatory reform and carrot-and-stick incentives for neighborhoods to produce more housing.
On homelessness: Housing is also a cornerstone of his plan to confront homelessness: “We need to recognize this fundamental fact: Shelters solve sleep. Housing solves homelessness,” he said at a gubernatorial town hall in January. On top of that, he’s called for a statewide interagency council to fight homelessness, overseen by a secretary of homelessness, as well as more aggressive advocacy of the federal Supplemental Security Income to help vulnerable groups.
On health care: Newsom has championed a universal health care program, akin to the Healthy San Francisco plan he helped roll out in the city when he was mayor. In an interview with KPCC in January, he called it a “bridge to the ideal,” referring to his support for a single-payer health care system for California. Newsom acknowledges legal hurdles the state would face to create Canadian-style single-payer health care proposed in the SB 562 bill, which stalled in the Assembly. Still, he told KPCC he wants to use SB 562 as the “corpus of the plan” to achieve single-payer in California.
On immigration: Yes to California’s “sanctuary” status and yes to comprehensive immigration reform. He supports SB 54, California’s sanctuary state law that limits when state and local law enforcement can cooperate with federal authorities to enforce immigration laws. He also says he will resist any efforts from the Trump administration to roll back DACA protections or strip away federal funding from cities.