With California’s gubernatorial primary less than six months away, the six major contenders to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown — four Democrats and two Republicans — held their first joint debate at USC’s Bovard Auditorium Saturday, where they discussed immigration, health care, budget policy and other issues.
Assemblyman Travis Allen, State Treasurer John Chiang, businessman John Cox, former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa responded to questions from moderators Marc Brown of ABC7 and Mary Plummer of KPCC-FM.
One of the most hotly debated issues was immigration, specifically whether California should be a so-called sanctuary state offering protections to people in the United States illegally. The Democrats were favorable toward such a policy, while the two Republicans were strongly against it.
Cox advocated President Donald’s Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border, while Allen said Brown’s “illegal sanctuary state is sheltering criminals.”
Newsom was pressed by Chiang and Villaraigosa over the cost of his single-payer health care plan — a position also favored by Eastin.
“We’ve got to address the fact it’s going to cost $400 billion,” Villaraigosa said, while Chiang tried to nail Newsom down on how much he’d have to raise payroll taxes to pay for statewide health care.
“The one argument that doesn’t work with me is that it [single payer] costs more than the current system,” Newsom responded. “The current system is insolvent.”
Eastin touted her education background, saying “I believe in science.”
Outside the event, several demonstrators held signs calling for the permanent closure of the Aliso Canyon storage facility in Porter Ranch, which was the site of the largest methane leak in U.S. history in late 2015 and early 2016.
The town hall was presented by the Empowerment Congress, the civic engagement group founded by L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and USC’s Unruh Institute for Politics. The six candidates were chosen based on their poll numbers and fund-raising positions.
The primary is June 5. The top two finishers, regardless of party affiliation, will then square off in November.
—City News Service
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