Recall Debate: Gubernatorial candidates weigh in on important issues facing Californians

Candidates eyeing to take over Gavin Newsom’s seat as Governor of California faced off in their first gubernatorial debate Wednesday night. 

Republican candidates John Cox, Kevin Faulconer, Kevin Kiley and Doug Ose discussed a wide range of topics and issues Californians are currently facing. 

California will hold its recall election on Sept. 14, which could result in the removal of first-term Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom from office. The recall grew out of widespread frustration during the pandemic over whipsaw stay-at-home orders, crushing job losses from business closures and long-running school closures that together disrupted life for millions.

Missed the debate? Watch it here.

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Below is a breakdown of how each candidate answered certain questions. 


John Cox: In dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, John Cox said he does not support any mandates. He suggested that California should look at other states for ideas with the handling of the pandemic. Cox said small businesses were crushed during the pandemic while big businesses stayed open. "I’m a small businessman. The big businesses were fine, Costco, Target, Home Depot had just a good time but small businesses were crushed. I think the governor’s COVID management was an absolute disaster."

Kevin Faulconer: Kevin Faulconer urged everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine but said he doesn't support a mask mandate. Faulconer is in support of education surrounding the vaccine and educating people on its benefits. He wants schools to reopen with students and teachers all back on campus.

Kevin Kiley: Kiley said California could have saved more lives if the government performed better… insisting that the initial vaccine rollout was slow. Kiley also stated that getting vaccinated is a personal choice.

Doug Ose: With dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, candidate Ose said the government has overreached their authority in imposing mandates. He says people should have the option to make their own choices. "I happen to have great faith in the ability of people to make decisions on their own, to assess the risk that they face, whether it be their child in school or their workplace or where they shop," Ose stated. He said if this pattern of government overreach doesn't stop, people will get stuck with it repeatedly. 

Top priority as governor:

John Cox: Candidate John Cox says the first thing he would get done as governor of California will be to call a special session to address the state's housing problem. He says the housing problem is driving residents and businesses out of the state.

Kevin Faulconer: The former Mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, says as governor his top priority is to make California affordable. His plans for governor also include standing up for public safety, removing encampments off the street and bringing the state together after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kevin Kiley: Assemblymember Kevin Kiley says his goals as governor include making a fundamental change in the state government. He says the state government is fundamentally broken and that is why the quality of life is declining. "Whoever wins this race will have one year to offer a viable alternative and set our state in a new course before the next election. So I say first of all, the era of corruption is over," Kiley stated during the debate. 

Doug Ose: If elected governor of California, Doug Ose says his top priority is to fire the person preventing construction of new water storages, fire the person who is trying to release, through regulatory changes, the prisoners who have been convicted and not yet served their terms. During the debate, Ose also said that he would improve education by firing several appointees on the state board of education.

Gov. Newsom's campaign responds:

Following Wednesday's debate, Governor Gavin Newsom's campaign team issued the following statement:

"Each of them tried to do their best Larry Elder impression - the closest thing we have to Trump here in California and the clear front runner in the race. All of them said they wouldn’t lift a finger to protect Californians against the Delta variant or even require health care workers to prove their vaccination status. That’s pretty outrageous." -Nathan Click, Newsom Campaign Spokesman

Drug cartel: 

John Cox: The issue of drugs is personal for Cox. He said as a businessman, he plans to solve this problem by going right to the heart of it. He plans to end California's sanctuary state, have local police interface with ICE and border patrol and build a wall along the southern border.

Kevin Faulconer: If elected as governor, Faulconer said he plans to put victims first and put criminals in jail. "The fact that we have a governor who enabled the defund the police movement, the fact that we have a governor that has supported lessening penalties and our criminal justice system… and we have seen results on the streets." Faulconer says he will stop this by taking a strong and firm approach. 

Kevin Kiley: When asked about what he plans to do to stop drugs and the cartel from coming into California, Kiley said sanctuary state laws need to be rolled back. He said it has gotten in the way of law enforcement from doing their jobs and protecting our communities safe. In terms of drugs, he said recent changes to criminal law are having a devastating impact on local communities... referring to Prop 47.

Doug Ose: During the debate, Ose said the state is being overwhelmed by the illegal importation of drugs. He said state and local funding needs to increase and a serious inspection should be done at the border. As far as the issue of drugs, he says treatment must be available to those facing addiction.


John Cox: Cox says he will propose a plan revolving around treatment. He said buying hotels will not be a solution, saying it’s a waste of money. He says Britney Spears doesn’t need a conservatorship, but a lot of people living on the streets do.

Kevin Faulconer: Faulconer claims he reduced homelessness in San Diego by double digits while he was the mayor, the only big city in California to do that. He adds he created a new San Diego police division dedicated to moving those battling homelessness to shelters.

Kevin Kiley: Kiley called homelessness in California a "human tragedy and a national disgrace." Kiley said he will work on bringing in more shelters, substance abuse training and job training.

Doug Ose: Last week on The Issue Is, the former Congressman accused Kevin Faulconer of proposing a disingenuous solution for homelessness in San Diego, even calling Faulconer the "Plastic Man." Ose said providing hotels for those battling homelessness is not the answer and said one shouldn’t advocate for hotel rooms for the homeless without mandating treatment for their underlying drug or mental health battles. Ose suggests placing those in "imminent threat" of hurting themselves into custody and provide them with treatment.

You asked, we answered 

Fox 11 asked viewers to submit their questions to the four gubernatorial candidates. Here is how they answered some of your questions.