Compared to the rest of Southern California, it was a cooler evening here in beautiful Yorba Linda for the first Gubernatorial Debate of the special election to Recall Gavin Newsom.
The debate was held at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, where four of the top-tier candidates: Businessman John Cox, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, CA Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, and former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose, answered questions and shared their governing agenda should they be the one chosen as the new Governor of California, when the voters succeed in recalling Newsom.
This is an historic debate, as a Recall election for Governor has not reached the ballot in 18 years. Debates of this nature can, and no doubt will, dictate the outcome of the September 14 election. The Richard Nixon Foundation was wise to organize and host this endeavor to help California voters better decide the future of their state.
President of the Richard Nixon Foundation, Salem radio host, and political commentator Hugh Hewitt shared the moderator duties with Fox 11 News anchors Christine Devine and Elex Michaelson, as well as former U.S. National Security Adviser Ambassador Robert C. O’Brien.
It was a brisk round of questioning, with 30 seconds given to ask the question posed to one or all of the candidates, and 75 seconds given for the candidates to answer. Major props to all of the moderators, who did a good job in honing in on some precise questions that were not just created by them, but by members of the Fox 11 production team, and California voters. Hewitt is one of the best in the business for this type of forum, and he did an excellent job of not only being equitable in streamlining the moderation duties, but keeping the candidates on point.
Devine made the point that this was not a partisan debate. Governor Gavin Newsom was invited to participate, but failed to respond to the invitation. Olympian and Reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner is overseas, in production on Big Brother Australia, and Salem talk radio host and political pundit Larry Elder, who is leading in the polls, chose a fundraising event over the debate.
The questions ranged from California’s most critical issues: homelessness, housing, critical infrastructure, water, and business, to overarching national and global issues such as the Confucious Institutes and how California can protect its intellectual property from China, COVID-19 and how to continue to address this pandemic, vaccine and mask mandates, education, Critical Race Theory, all the way down to the Border and Immigration policy.
Here are some sound bites that will no doubt make the news and may well be placed in the candidates’ campaign ads:
When asked what he would do on Day 1 as Governor, Doug Ose responded,
“Get back to addressing fundamental things that make a difference around the kitchen table.”
Kevin Faulconer responded to the question of how he would address rising crime with,
“As governor I will put victims first and put criminals in jail.”
Regarding the question of how to solve the problems in education, John Cox said,
“I am an absolute advocate in giving the parents the power over education.”
On the question of whether as Governor he would impose a school mask mandate, Assemblyman Kevin Kiley was consistent:
“I am one hundred percent against mask mandates. Parents know what is best for their kids, they should be making decisions for themselves.”
Where Faulconer and Cox were familiar with these types of debates and their responses reflected a bit more polish, Kiley and Ose were less so. However, what these men lacked in the manner of more polished presentations, as former and current members of a legislative body, Ose and Kiley pulled policy knowledge and concrete solutions from that range of experience, where Faulconer and Cox could only theorize.
Where Ose shined was in addressing the water crisis in California:
Water is not theoretical to me. These fellas, they know the story, I know the reality. We need to increase supply. […] If you’re a farmer, I live it. I live this issue. I’m your guy if water is your issue.
Where Ose stumbled was in his tendency to get lost in the weeds. Unless you are a policy wonk, some of the matters he discussed went over the heads of the average voter.
Another huge misstep Ose made was in his declaration that anyone elected Governor needed to learn to work with San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-Evil Harridan), because she is the most powerful Democrat in the Legislature.
I almost threw up in my mouth when I heard it.
Ose will be getting tweets and emails from the 4.5 million independent professionals who lost their livelihoods thanks to Gonzalez’s AB5. Many of these professionals made every effort to work with and negotiate with Gonzalez. They were lied to, dismissed, and thrown under the wheels of unions and lobbyists in order to get the law passed. Ose underestimates the belly of that beast, and with that one comment, lost a sizeable portion of the voting bloc in this Recall.
On the question of how as governor he would keep business in California, Kevin Kiley focused on rolling back regulations. Kiley emphasized that large corporations can circumvent these regulations because they have the capital to hire lawyers and maintain regulatory departments.
“It’s small businesses who ultimately pays the price. I will immediately roll back PAGA, I will immediately repeal AB5.”
In discussing the regulatory state, his lawsuit with fellow Assemblyman James Gallagher against Governor Newsom, and the concrete steps he would take to undo the morass of executive power, Kiley stood out. Where he was less than stellar was in the discussion on Immigration and Border policy, which is a hot button issue for many California voters who support the Recall. Kiley’s approach of rolling back the sanctuary city policy and eliminating programs that incentivize illegals came off as a measured dodge, rather than concrete policy to be implemented.
Cox and Faulconer’s strengths were reflected in the fact that they are men who have actually run something. One the City of San Diego, another building a successful home construction enterprise. However, this was also where they both came off weak. Faulconer’s run as San Diego mayor could not be deemed as a sweeping success, and many conservatives rightly charge that under Faulconer’s watch, San Diego moved from a reliably Red city and county, to a deep Blue progressive stronghold.
While Cox successfully built a housing business, the need of a governor to collaborate and also understand the nature of the policies in place, as well as those that need to be implemented appeared to be lost on him.
It was a solid forum which allowed voters, and those undecided, to hear the candidates and their policy points. My hope is that the next debate would focus in on the actual reasons for the Recall, as stated by those who signed the petition, and how each candidates’ action plans will address those issues.
The Nixon Foundation is planning a second debate during the week of August 23, and has invited back the candidates on the stage tonight, as well as Caitlyn Jenner, Larry Elder, and Governor Gavin Newsom.
UPDATE: Here is the full debate for your informed viewing pleasure.