Four Republican candidates vying for the governorship in the recall election faced off in a televised debate Wednesday night, vowing, if elected, to end mask mandates, bring back business and make strides to solve the state’s homelessness.
The four candidates — former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox, Assemblymember Kevin Kylie and former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose of Northern California — took turns taking shots at Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday in an effort to boost their own campaigns ahead of the Sept. 14 vote. The candidates met at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda for the debate, discussing their campaigns in front of an audience of a few dozen unmasked attendees.
The candidates addressed a variety of issues during the debate, providing answers about their thoughts on the homeless crisis, COVID-19, business and even critical race theory.
While numerous Republican governors across the nation, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, have outlawed mask mandates in their states, none of the four candidates during the debate went as far to say they would ban a mask mandate. However, each agreed they are not in favor of mask or vaccine mandates.
All four candidates said they instead favor education and personal choice, though Mr. Faulconer voiced outspoken support in favor of the vaccine.
“Vaccination is how we get our way out of this. I’m vaccinated, my family’s vaccinated. And if we don’t want to be dealing with this with our kids and our grandchildren, we have to take action,” Mr. Faulconer said. “But I do not favor mandates, I favor education. You’re not going to mandate your way out of the coronavirus.”
Mr. Ose went a step further in his comments, saying the government is in “serious overreach of its authority” in terms of imposing mandates.
“I happen to have great faith in the ability of people to make decisions on their own to assess the risk they face,” he said.
Another central theme during Wednesday’s debate centered on the state’s homelessnes crisis. During the discussion, each candidate agreed that the best solution to solving the crisis is getting people into treatment as opposed to Gov. Newsom’s existing policy of offering housing in hotel rooms.
The candidates vowed that if elected, they would center their homeless policy on treatment and supportive services, as opposed to simply getting people off the street and into hotels.
The four candidates also discussed the mass exodus of residents and businesses leaving California on Wednesday.
Each of the men agreed that the “overregulation” of business and the high cost of maintaining an establishment are key reasons why people are choosing to leave the state.
Mr. Cox, who has been seen campaigning across the state with a bear and a ball of trash, vowed to enact a 25% tax cut for all California residents if he is elected as governor. He said he would also champion a “transparency agenda” on business by exposing every regulation that he believes limits business owners.
“This state taxes people too much and regulates people to death,” Mr. Cox said. “I’m a businessman, and I would never even think of starting a business in California.”
Mr. Kylie utilized the debate to highlight his efforts in the state legislature, which includes his opposition stance toward a bill moving through the state legislature that, if passed, would require all schools in the state to teach critical race theory — a teaching that focuses on the role systemic racism plays in the lives of people of color in the U.S.
Mr. Kylie and the other three candidates denounced the teaching of CRT in schools. Former Rep. Ose called the theory “anti-merit” and “anti-achievement,” while Mr. Faulconer said the teaching “focuses on what divides us rather than what unites us.”
“The U.S. is not a racist country. The more folks that stand up and speak truth to that, I think the better off we’re going to be,” Mr. Faulconer said.
Two well-known Republican candidates running in the election —talk show host Larry Elder and reality star Caitlyn Jenner — were noticeably absent from the event. Debate organizers told the audience that the two candidates and Gov. Newsom were invited to join the debate, but declined to attend.
According to the latest polls, Mr. Elder is the leading candidate to replace Gov. Newsom if he is recalled, garnering about 18% of the votes from those most likely to cast their ballot in the recall election.
California voters will be receiving their recall ballots in the mail within the next two weeks.