Rapidfire gubernatorial debate mostly civil; some barbs aimed at frontrunner Gavin Newsom

- On stage at the California Theater in San Jose, four Democrats and two Republicans fired off talking points in a rapidly paced gubernatorial debate Tuesday night.

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, State Treasurer John Chiung, and former State Superintendent Delaine Eastin were the Democrats invited to the debate. 

Businessman John Cox and Orange County Assemblyman Travis Allen were the two Republicans invited to participate.

With just one month to go until the June 5 primary, has emerged as the frontrunner in polls and focused his fire at the Republicans and President Donald Trump.

"This Trump administration has declared war on California, declared war on our clean air, declared war on our clean water, declared war on our healthcare, the reproductive rights of the women in this state, Planned Parenthood, declared war on our immigrants, particularly our dreamers. I think it's incumbent for the next California governor to stand up and stand tall," said Newsom.

"The first thing I'd do is reverse Gavin Newsom's sanctuary state law," said Republican businessman John Cox, who has surged to second, said he supports a border wall, a repeal of both the state gas tax and high speed rail project. 

"We've wasted billions on this job. It's gone when I'm governor,' said Cox.

Orange County Assemblyman Travis Allen, an unabashed Trump supporter, is competing for Republican votes and said he'd support the Trump immigration crackdown. 

"Our state has the worst in the nation poverty, the worse in the nation's homelessness. It's about time that California puts Californians first," said Allen. 

Allen then got into an argument with Newsom.

"One Kate Steinle is one too many. We must secure our borders. I'm the only one on this stage who has never changed on securing our border. We must end this illegal sanctuary state," said Allen.

"I find it offensive to politicize the death of Kate Steinle," said Newsom. 

The other Democrats said they support California's sanctuary state status.

On the issue of character, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin took a strong stand against sexual misconduct.

"It's inappropriate if any boss in any business or any government agency to make passes at women who work for them and when it happens it ought to be given a shout out," Eastin said.

Allen dismissed accusations of sexual misconduct against himself, instead turning his fire on Newsom. 

"If you can't trust Gavin with his best friend's wife how can you trust him with your state?" Allen said.

"I was honest about it. I owned up to it," said Newsom, who said has learned from the affair that occurred decades ago.

Villaraigosa also said his own affair had cost him, 

"I stand with the me too movement," said Villaraigosa, "I made a mistake. I lost my marriage. I lost my family for a time. I took responsibility for it. My whole life I've taken responsibility for my actions."  

On the issue of homelessness and housing, there were sharp differences. 

"We have a homeless problem all over this state we are 12% of the nation's population but 25% of the homeless. So the next governor should call for an emergency declaration," said Eastin. 

"We've got to treat people for substance abuse, we can do that with community groups and NGO's," said Cox.

"We have places where people can get help, but they must no longer be allowed to sleep on the streets," said Allen.

The two former mayors Newsom and Villaraigosa have called  for 3.5 million housing units by 2025.

"As governor I'll put a housing trust fund together, give the cities money we took from them during the recession, so they can build that housing. Permanent supportive services around the housing," said Villaraigosa.

"I would lead the effort with a cabinet level position. to break the morass and lead the effort across the state," said Newsom.

"I want to bring back redevelopment agencies, but I think we not do what Gavin and Antonio did and criminalize homeless. We have to understand that we need rapid housing, supportive housing," said Chiung. 

Democratic State Treasurer John Chiung at times criticized Newsom, while touting his own record.

"I stood up to President Trump when he wanted to repeal Obamacare," said Chiung, "'ll challenge him on climate change. On the state lands committee I voted against offshore oil drilling.  and then on gun control...I'm leading an effort to divest from supplies of banned assault military weapons." 

Villaraigosa, once thought a possible frontrunner, is now a close third.

"I want to be a governor that unites this great state. This is the most diverse state anywhere in the world it's a state whose the engine is its diversity and I'm absolutely proud of that," said Villaraigosa.

The candidates ended the debate with no clear winner in a race that will pit the top two June primary winners, regardless of party. 

 

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