Meet the candidates vying to be California's next governor

Perhaps the biggest race in California will be for governor and candidates are busy courting voters before the June primary.

The top six candidates for California governor are made up of four Democrats and two Republicans:

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (D)
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D)
State Treasurer John Chiang (D)
Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin (D)
San Diego County businessman John Cox (R)
State Assemblyman Travis Allen (R)

Newsom is the front runner. He’s got a strong base in the Bay Area as former mayor of San Francisco.

“I'm not running to be the head of the resistance,” Newsom told KTVU. “I want to run to be a positive alternative to the Trump agenda. I want to build on the legacy and successes of Gov. Jerry Brown and the leadership that has done an extraordinary job in the last seven years.”

Newsom has raised the most money so far with endorsement from celebrities and politicians, including former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. Some of Newsom’s top priorities include pushing single-payer healthcare and tackling the state’s affordability crisis.

“The issue that hasn't been addressed is income inequality and wealth inequality,” Newsom said. “That to me is the why and the most powerful reason for putting myself up to run for governor.”

Villaraigosa is second in the polls. He is popular among Latino voters and has a strong support base from Southern California.

“I'm running for governor because I understand that if we don't address the challenges of the middle class, people who work every day, this state isn't going to be the great state that it is,” Villaraigosa said.

The former Speaker of the California State Assembly is focusing his campaign on the economy and growing middle class jobs. 

“We need to educate and train our future workforce for those jobs, build infrastructure, and improve our business climate so we can grow our economy,” Villaraigosa said. “The next governor is going to have to address the housing crisis that's making it impossible for people who work to find a place to live.”

Chiang touts his financial discipline during his years in office as State Treasurer and as former State Controller.

“I'm the person you can trust when it comes to the state's finances,” Chiang said. “When we had that last financial crisis in the state, I took on everybody. Whether it was Gov. Schwarzenegger when he wanted to pay the public servants federal minimum wage or to the legislature when they passed an unbalanced budget. We can’t break the backs of Californians because politicians in Sacramento can't do the math correctly.”

Like the other Democrat candidates, Chiang support the fight to protect DACA students and frequently talks about his parents who immigrated from Taiwan.

“I want to make sure that the California future is one that is synonymous with the American dream,” he said. 

Eastin has Bay Area ties. She grew up on the peninsula and got her start in politics as a city councilwoman in Union City. The former Superintendent of Public Instruction wants to invest in children from “cradle to college.”

“I want every child in this state whether they're poor, or working class, or working class, more affluent to less affluent to feel like this is a state that tomorrow has promise and hope,” Eastin said.

She too is advocating for healthcare for all and affordable housing. Eastin knows she is the underdog.

“This state has never had a woman governor,” she said. “This state has only had a total of eight women constitutional officers, even though we elect eight every four years. It's past time to have a woman as governor.”

Cox, a businessman and politician, is outspoken about his belief that California is being mismanaged.

“It has the highest gas tax, the highest income taxes, it's become an enemy of business,” Cox said. “I'm a small businessman. Small businesses can't get started let alone operate.”

Cox has already started running radio and television ads where his campaign focus is change. It is a big task in a blue state, but Cox is up for the challenge.

“I don't really see anyone stepping forward to do what's needed which is to get the special interests out of control and actually forge some sort of solutions to these problems,” he said.

KTVU reached out to Allen, but were unable to secure an interview. The assemblyman from Huntington Beach is considered conservative and controversial for his stance against illegal immigration.

“You are welcome to come to this country, but we will welcome you through the front door,” Allen said in a recent debate at UCLA.

Allen’s campaign slogan is “take back California.” His five-point plan for California include cutting taxes, getting tough on crime, fixing and expanding roads, fixing the education system and completing the state water project.

Other candidates running are Republican Doug Ose from Sacramento and Libertarian Zoltan Istvan from Marin County. 

The top two candidates in the June primary will secure a spot in the November election and changes are high for a Democrat versus Democrat runoff.