The Hits, the Misses, and the Missed Opportunities from the CA Governor's Recall Candidates Debate

Photo by Jennifer Oliver O'Connell - used with permission

In terms of how to interview, manage, and run a debate, Salem Talk Radio Host and Political Commentator Hugh Hewitt is an experienced pro. I have watched Hewitt since the 1990s, when he co-hosted the local PBS station KCET‘s Life & Times with the Los Angeles Times‘ writer and editor Patt Morrison, and writer John Ochoa. When Hewitt became the host of a nationally-syndicated radio show that aired in the 3:00 p.m. Pacific slot in California, I would listen to how he interviewed his guests. Hewitt was adept at pacing, asking questions that culled the most information, and not allowing a guest to ramble. He is one of the best, and maybe most underrated interviewers in the business, and as a journalist, I have gleaned and learned from his methods.


Hewitt’s fellow Salem Radio host and candidate for governor Larry Elder made the point of dismissing (and missing) the Governor’s debate, calling it a “circular firing squad“. Last night’s debate was anything but, and Hewitt, who probably watched in horror the devolution of debate during the 2016 Republican primaries, was not interested in another knock down, drag out between candidates occurring on his watch. It is his hand, along with the capable moderation skills of Fox 11 anchors Elex Michaelson and Christine Devine, and former National Security Advisor to the President Robert C. O’Brien that allowed the debate to run smoothly, and allowed California voters to actually hear what the candidates platform and policies were.

The night, and the candidates definitely had hits, misses, and because of the tight structure, some lost opportunities for more substantial debate on topics that concern voters.


Businessman John Cox Illustrates that the fight against COVID should not only be about the vaccine:


“There’s a lot of people who have had COVID and have antibodies. They don’t need the vaccine, they shouldn’t get the vaccine. This disease is an awful one, I had it very early on, and it’s not something you want to have. But it’s 99.9 percent survivable by people who are in decent health who aren’t elderly. What we need to do is look at what other states have done.”

Had it been a different debate, this would have received some rousing claps. Those who have contracted COVID and recovered are 1.3 million strong according to Business Insider, and probably more because of undiagnosed cases and those who are asymptomatic. Kudos to John Cox for mentioning this important aspect of the fight against COVID-19 that health officials and government officials are tacitly ignoring in their push to get “jabs in arms”.

Kudos to Cox as well for pointing out that in terms of governance, we need to learn from those who got it right, and did it right, as opposed to those who were propped up and fawned over, and we are seeing the truth behind the fluff being revealed. Looking at you, New York.


Cox finally dropped some cold facts about the problem with politics in the State and why the issues of housing and homelessness have reached critical mass:

“This issue illustrates the impetus of career politicians that we have in the state, all across the state.”

In one of his questions to Cox, Elex Michaelson pointed out the theatrics Cox used in touring the state with a California brown bear, and an 8-foot bale of trash. Cox said the theatrics were to bring attention to the issues at hand.

You know what? This is California, land of the theatrical. Cox is still in the top-tier of candidates, so, it worked.


Assemblyman Kevin Kiley’s winning stump speech: Our government is broken.


“What I’ve also seen in my 5 years in the Legislature is that our state government is fundamentally broken, that’s why our quality of life is declining in California. And what’s broken it is we have a political class that serves special interests rather than serving the people of California.

“I have not been able to fix our broken state government as one member of the Legislature, and I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own as governor, but I would be able to start doing it on Day 1 with the Mandate for Fundamental Change that this Recall would provide.

“So the question you ask is the right one, because whoever wins this race is going to have ONE YEAR to offer a viable alternative, and set our state on a new course before the next election.”

Several of the California RedState contributors have made it known that they are backing Kiley for Governor, including me, and this is part of the reason why. He is not blowing smoke. He makes it clear what is at stake, and exactly what he can and will do about it. That’s not a slick career politician, that’s an honest broker who cares about who, and how he governs.


Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer backed the Blue


I didn’t defund the police budget in San Diego, I increased it. I increased it, because if we want safe neighborhoods, if we want the best and the brightest men and women who wear that badge protecting us day and night, we better darn well give them the tools and the training and the support to be successful. That is the approach I will take as governor, and work to strengthen those laws that this governor has worked to weaken. He’s wrong, Californians know he’s wrong, and that’s why he’s getting Recalled.

Mic drop. With all that is going on with violence, crime, and the demoralization of law enforcement, Faulconer may have just won the law and order vote.

Former U.S. Representative Doug Ose called out Kevin Faulconer’s “plastic” face on confronting homelessness.


Ose’s points:

  • In 2017 the administrators of San Diego stopped counting homeless people who lived in their cars or RVs, thus allowing them to report lower numbers of homeless.
    Faulconer bragged about cleaning up the sidewalks, when what he really did was remove the homeless to outlying cities, and now, hotels.
  • Faulconer’s response was weak, saying that he used methods that were implemented in other cities.

Ose hit his target, deflating Faulconer’s braggadocio. Faulconer’s work to fix the homeless problems in his city were merely a cosmetic cleanup, without actually solving the issues that cause homelessness. Faulconer claimed a cure, when he merely put a Bandaid over a bleeding wound.

Ose’s response to the CDC’s mask mandates and eviction moratorium was golden.

“I think the government is engaged in a significant overreach of their authority. I have tremendous faith in people to make decisions.”


Not much to be said here. Part of what this Recall is challenging is the dictator mentality of governance. A candidate saying that he believes people are smart enough to make their own decisions speaks volumes.

I just think that government overreach has to stop. All right. This is not the last variant we’re going to have. If we don’t break this pattern of government overreach into our daily lives, then we’re going to get stuck with this over, and over, and over. Let’s have some faith in the people that are in my state, and in our country.

My view here is, instead of giving people mandates, we need to give them options. Our legislature and our governor right now, have said, “You will do this”, without giving people options. I’m for giving people options. Take your children to a different school, shop somewhere else. I am not in favor of government overreach as defined by the CDC.


Kiley, we know you’re traveling the State, but please lay off the Red Bull.

At least for debates… or maybe switch to green tea? The candidates had 75 seconds to respond to questions, and with the detail that Kiley often responds to questions, this is a tight time to get your points across. However, him slowing down, and taking a breath, would better help viewers hear the sound knowledge, insights, and the solutions he is presenting.

The silver lining: It wasn’t quite the miss it appeared to be. From the YouTube and Twitter comments, people who had never heard of Kevin Kiley before were not put off by it. In fact, they appreciated his depth of information and knowledge, as opposed to the canned, politician-like answers others gave.


Kiley improved on slowing down towards the end of the debate, but definitely something to work on for the next one.

Governor John Cox will on Day 1 call a special session… to address housing?


“The first thing that I do as the governor of this state is I call a special session to address housing. The housing is the most severe problem–we have a lot of them, but housing really is the most severe, because it’s driving businesses out of the states, it’s driving people out of the state.”

I am personally experiencing the pain of California’s unaffordable housing and the subsequent results from ill-conceived pandemic policies that add to that pain. However, housing is not our biggest problem. I would put death of enterprise, entrepreneurship, and small business, crime, and homelessness way above that.

For some of us, homelessness is a result of the housing crisis, but that is a whole nut in and of itself, and a result of greedy special interests who don’t want to solve the problem, as well as the corrupt governance who kick the can down the road. Cox pointed this out later in the debate, but should have expounded better on it from the beginning.

Cox’s Mantra: “I’m a Businessman, I need to solve the problem, and that’s what I do.”

Cox’s constant repeating of, “I’m a businessman”, was used to try and distance and distinguish himself from the other three men who are politicians and held or currently hold political office. But, it came off as obsequious and self-serving. It also proved nothing, as many of the solutions Cox brought forth and some of the theoretical things he would try to accomplish on Day 1 rang hollow. This reflects how running a business does not necessarily translate to running a government.

Faulconer’s Shell Game with the Homeless and throwing money at the problem

Faulconer often bragged throughout the debate about removing tent encampments on San Diego’s sidewalks.

But what about freeway underpasses? Private property lawns? Parking lots, beaches? As part of an Ose win, he effectively exposed and deflated Faulconer’s supposed accomplishment.

Faulconer also used the phrase, “MAKE CALIFORNIA AFFORDABLE AGAIN.”


This is a nice bumper sticker statement that has no basis in reality, and his plan to give the middle class a tax cut, while it would no doubt help, will not remove the adversarial regulatory and environmental lobbies that keep costs inflated on almost everything, and only cater to those who are well off.

With the real estate fiasco of 101 Ash Street and the millions—and when it’s all said and done–probably billions, that will be put out to try to salvage the asbestos-ridden high rise, Faulconer’s ability to manage money comes into great question here.

Faulconer leads with “Vaccine, Vaccine, Vaccine” and “I condemn January 6”

“First and foremost, I urge everyone to get vaccinated. Vaccinations are how we get our way out of this.”

Really?! How is that vaccine working out with the breakthrough Delta variant?

“For those that are still hesitant, we have to continue to provide that education, continue to show the benefits of what happens when you do get vaccinated. I believe that really is the right way to go. Education first, not mandates.”

Virtue-signaling much? In trying to separate himself from his support of Trump in 2016 and 2020, Faulconer did the RINO-dance of “I condemn January 6” and pushed for vaccination, rather than acknowledging, as Ose did, that people are smart enough to make their own decisions; if they are not choosing to get vaccinated it is not an issue with education; whether we like it or not, it is their choice.


Ose won over, then lost the Independent Contractor vote.


Earlier in the debate, on the question about how to support small business, Ose was the first to bring up the need to repeal AB5. Another point that, in another debate, would have received rousing cheers.

Then, to borrow a Yiddish expression, he plotzed.

“First of all, this may sound like apostasy, but you have to figure out how to work with Lorena Gonzalez. You have to figure out how to work with her, that’s what I’d do.”

When Michaelson asked how he would do this, Ose’s response was, “Well, I’d just call her up!” And that they would find some common ground to work together.

What a deluded fool. It is apparent that he has not bothered to watch the horror wrought upon independent professionals from the beginning of the battle of AB5 until now.

I mentioned this in my Debate recap article. As I said above, Cox got in his digs with Kevin Faulconer, and Ose’s comments here about working with the Evil Harridan of the Legislature were a direct dig at Kevin Kiley, who has been one of the few to challenge Gonzalez on AB5.


For certain, Ose lost the 4.5 million of us who were effected by AB5. Anyone who watched our devastation over the past year knows that Gonzalez is not a person who wants to be reasoned with. Gonzalez is like a cat with a mouse: she will string you along, toy with you, pretend she is sharing the cheese, before she lunges in for the kill.

Our Managing Editor Jennifer Van Laar did a detailed Twitter thread on just how low Gonzalez went during that time, targeting me, and other independent professionals who dared to challenge her.

Van Laar ended with this wisdom on why Ose is not the candidate who supports freelancers, independent contractors, and the self-employed.

Some squishy types want to go along w/Lorena to get along w/Lorena. Why? She’s someone who’ll turn her back on you and stab you in the back.

We gave her 1 chance and she confirmed who she is.

We won’t elect anyone who thinks Lorena can be worked with /end




Here was the weak link in this mostly well-oiled debate: the inability to shift into a broader discussion of California issues that are also currently roiling the nation.

Kevin Kiley gave an excellent response to Hugh Hewitt’s CRT question. The problem is not primarily the CRT curriculum, but the vacuum created by removing Civics as a building block in education:

“I think the important point of CRT is that it has exposed a vacuum in our public education system. We don’t truly teach Civics in our schools anymore, at least not like we used to. Civics used to not just be some add-on to the curriculum, but it was the unifying thread of your education: to empower you, to prepare for citizenship, to be a productive member of society, to learn about the things that make America great, and our founding principles. But we don’t teach education, we don’t think about education that way anymore. So CRT has come along, and is exploiting that vacuum. If we no longer teach our kids to build their communities up, CRT will teach them how to tear their communities down.”


There also wasn’t enough discussion about the fraud at the California Employment Development Department. The fraud and malfeasance was massive (over 30 billion), it was aided, abetted, and ignored by Governor Hair Gel and his EDD minions, namely our new-Deputy U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su. RedState has documented the EDD fraud and Ms. Sue’s criminal behavior extensively, but suffice to say, it goes well beyond just “answering the damn phone”.

Finally, spiking crime is also a topic of national debate. While Faulconer hit it out the park with his discussion of Prop.. 47 and Defund the Police, this also should have been used by the moderators for some extended discussion, especially since the district attorneys of the most populous counties of California are also being Recalled.

Here is the full Recall Debate. It goes quickly, and is well worth your time, especially if you are a Californian voting on September 14 in the Recall election.


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