The USC Price School of Public Policy and KNBC hosted a debate for California’s gubernatorial candidates at Bovard Auditorium Monday.
Republicans Travis Allen and John Cox and Democrats John Chiang, Delaine Eastin and Antonio Villaraigosa were in attendance. Democrat Gavin Newsom, the current California lieutenant governor and frontrunner in the gubernatorial race, did not participate in the debate.
“There is a chance for us tonight to hear directly from the candidates, to learn more about each of them, where they stand on the issues that matter most, and to listen to what their vision is for the future of California,” Price Dean Jack H. Knott said in his opening speech.
The candidates’ opening statements made their political stances clear. Chiang, who currently serves as the California State Treasurer, emphasized his commitment to never tolerating sexual abuse or harassment and his passion for fixing the problem of affordable housing.
Cox and Allen explained their dedication to lowering taxes and protecting the Second Amendment.
“California spends $4.50 for every dollar Texas spends to build a mile of road,” Cox said. “That’s your tax dollars. We collect tons of revenue. [Governor] Jerry Brown raised his budget from $80 billion to $130 billion in his term, and they keep wasting the money.”
Eastin, a former superintendent of public instruction in California, spoke of the importance of improving California’s education systems. Villaraigosa, a former Los Angeles mayor, highlighted his plans to increase economic opportunities for all Californians.
Throughout the event, the candidates discussed issues such as homelessness, gun violence, education and funding for a high-speed rail connecting Northern and Southern California.
KNBC news anchor Coleen Williams, one of the debate moderators, opened the broadcast with a question regarding California’s 24 lawsuits against the White House.
“Can the state of California work with the Trump administration?” Williams asked.
The conversation quickly became partisan. With two Republicans and three Democrats on stage, candidates were divided on the issue of whether California should continue to be a sanctuary state and not aid U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in implicating undocumented immigrants.
“As your next governor of the state of California, I vow my first 100 days in office to reverse the illegal sanctuary state,” Allen said. “California must follow and enforce federal immigration laws.”
Eastin, the only female candidate in attendance, refuted Allen’s claim, saying the practice isn’t illegal because of the Tenth Amendment, which protects state’s rights.
“It is our right as the State of California to protect and defend our immigrants,” Eastin said. “Let’s never forget that everybody in this room is probably a descendant of an immigrant. [Some of] the most ambitious, entrepreneurial, risk-taking people on the face of this planet happen to be called immigrants.”
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a Price professor and political analyst, asked the candidates how they could get students passionate about politics during a time of deep national divisiveness.
“I think we need to bring civics back to our classrooms,” Villaraigosa said. “We need to engage in the social sciences and social studies, study history again, understand that it’s not individuals who make history, it’s movements.”
Chiang echoed the sentiment and emphasized his plans to motivate young people.
“We have young people who are very passionate about their future, who are stepping up because they recognize that the officials and the adults are building their future,” Chiang said. “I want to encourage all the young people to understand that they can make an extraordinary difference. As governor, I would recruit them to participate in the state’s service corps … I want them to take ownership of their local communities.”
According to Knott, more than 25 percent of all registered voters in California reside in Southern California, making the area’s voting population an important one for the race.