California is the fifth largest economy in the world and has the fifth highest tax rate in the United State. It would be reasonable to assume that those alone would be enough to merit a round of debates between candidates vying to become its governor. However, like many other things in California, that is not the case.
With less than 45 days remaining before the election, California’s two gubernatorial candidates, Gavin Newsom (D) and John Cox (R), still haven’t agreed to a single televised debate much less a series. Cox is on record as wanting a series of debates, but he also wants to frame the issues. Newsom has only agreed to do one nationally televised debate on a network that many might consider to be favorable to his campaign (CNN).
It was reported last week that the two agreed to a radio debate on October 8.
The strategic rationales are obvious. According to a recent poll, John Cox has been closing the gap on his opponent. The wide margin that existed between the candidates in June has eroded to just 4 percentage points. Cox has also been piling up endorsements, but he tactically needs more exposure to overcome the Democrat majority that defines the California electorate.
Meanwhile, Gavin Newsom is keeping a low profile. He doesn’t need exposure and, in fact, benefits from not receiving it. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 44.4% of California’s registered voters are Democrats as compared to 25.1% who are Republican. If he can avoid controversy, the numbers are clearly in his favor.
However, those who registered No Party Preference (NPP) now comprise 25.1% of California’s electorate surpassing Republican registrations. The Newsom camp is apparently counting on an equitable split of those votes to seal his victory. Cox, on the other hand, must gain the attention of that constituency to sway it disproportionately toward him.
There are stark differences between the candidates’ positions on a wide variety of critical issues, but the average voter in California is likely to remain unaware of them unless one or more debates are held. Despite its economic prowess, California is facing crises on many fronts. As compared to the other 49 states, it currently ranks:
#1 in Poverty and Homelessness
#34 in Public Safety
#38 in College Readiness
#41 in Transportation
#44 in K-12 Education
#44 in Cost of Electricity
#46 in Opportunity
#48 in Cost of Living
#49 in Road Quality
#49 in Cost of Housing
#50 in Urban Air Quality
#50 in Quality of Life
The larger, economically thriving coastal cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco are Democratic strongholds with 56% of registered Democrats living in those two cities. They also exert tremendous media influence and house 52% of registered independents (NPPs), which bodes well for Newsom.
Conversely, they have become epicenters for homelessness and the opioid crisis; metropolitan areas marked by tent cities, human feces, and drug paraphernalia strewn about their streets.
Orange County and San Diego, which traditionally lean Republican, are suffering similar challenges but to a lesser degree. Meanwhile, other strong Republican areas, such as the Inland Empire and Central Valley, are struggling economically and have been for quite some time. Their agricultural economies have been hit hard by regulations and water shortages.
The question is: Do either of the candidates have specific solutions to offer?
The office of governor in California should not be sought out of ego or as a stepping stone to higher national aspirations. It is a complex “business” that requires unique skills, social empathy, and a clear vision of the solutions that can return its “Golden State” status.
Casting a vote based on party affiliation is a pathetic way to determine the state’s next leader. Its residents deserve one or more legitimate gubernatorial debates that will assure transparency with respect to the candidates’ positions and allow the electorate to cast informed votes.
Are either of the candidates the solution to California’s growing problems? Only time will tell, but it would be nice to hear them distinguish themselves in one or more debates.
[NOTE: If the candidates cannot reach an agreement to debate through a traditional media outlet, IVN would be happy to host and record a non-partisan-facilitated debate in its studio and provide free access to all interested media outlets as well as publishing and distributing the debate through its social media network.]