2018 California Governor Candidates, John Cox and Gavin Newsom Radio Debate

California is one of 36 states holding an election for governor in 2018 to replace outgoing Governor Jerry Brown (D), who is constitutionally unable to run for a third consecutive term in the state of California. The top two open primary winners facing off in November are Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (D) and businessman John Cox (R). In a radio debate Monday, the two answered questions from the KQED debate moderator and pre-recorded questions from voters throughout the state. Here’s what they had to say.

Newsom Says He’s Not Timid About Fighting for Change, But Wants to “Go Together” Not Alone

The moderator led the hour with some pointed questions for each candidate, referring first to “a series of public spats” Lt. Gov. Newsom has had with public officials and journalists who’ve asked him tough questions that he “didn’t like,” and the perception that Newsom may have “a thin skin” for politics.

Newsom answered: “I get along extraordinarily well with the legislature currently. I’m interested in change. Changing the order of things is difficult. People have different points of view… If you’re looking for timidity, I’m not your person…” but qualified that by assuring, “My intention is to go together, not go alone.”

Cox cut in to say: “I just want to emphasize that I come from the private sector where I have to work with people and get things done. What we’ve got to do is get people aligned around common goals… and that’s what I’m going to do as governor.”

Cox Says He’s Evolved From Past Statements On Social Issues Like Gay Marriage and Transgender Teachers

The moderator then pointed out a past statement by Cox, who one said: “We have a problem with transvestite teachers,” and who has claimed homosexuality is a slippery slope to bestiality, asking Cox, “What does that say about your values?”

Cox answered: “Those statements were many, many years ago. I’ve evolved on those issues. Just like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who opposed gay marriage for a long time, and they evolved, and they changed.”

When the moderator responded, “You say you’ve evolved and that’s fair, but he (Newsom) was mayor at the time that you said those things. So it wasn’t a long, long time ago that you said those things,” Cox replied that it wasn’t a long, long time ago that Obama and Clinton opposed gay marriage either.

That’s when Newsom cut in to say: “But you supported a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage. And I haven’t heard you evolve on this: that homosexuality leads to bestiality.”

“Which one of you represents the mainstream of Californians better?”

Cox: “I think I do. Because I represent the people who are just trying to get by. I wasn’t put in office by billionaires. I had to work. I had to struggle. And I think many Californians can relate to that.”

Newsom: “I think we represent the vast majority of Californians who are in opposition to John Cox and his embrace of Trumpism.”

“Both of you are Catholic. How does that figure in [to criminal justice reform]? I talked to the governor and he talked about redemption…”

Cox: “I do believe in redemption… but I think we owe it to the public that we apply parole judiciously.”

Newsom: “He says he would not continue the policies of Governor Brown, that have been about restoration, about second chances, and I would like to build on that… We can’t be ideological about these reforms… all of these things– you have to be iterative. The fundamental responsibility of the governor is public safety, but just locking folks up, being ‘tough on crime,’ I don’t think that’s the answer. I think being tough on crime is not the answer. Being smart on crime is.”

On Firearm Policy

Cox: “One thing we need to do is stop publicizing the names and pictures of these perpetrators of these gun crimes. I think California has done a lot to keep guns out of the hands of people that are mentally deranged. I would be open to looking at more ways to keep guns out of the hands of these people. We need to treat mental illness, and be sure that people who do these crimes don’t have their names and pictures publicized.”

Newsom: “He’s said gun safety laws are a waste of time. He is a member of the National Rifle Association. He doesn’t believe in wait times. He supports concealed carry legislation. I think he’s wrong on all these issues, and he’s not been a leader or influencer [on gun policy]. It’s a stark contrast between John and myself.”

Cox: “I’m not opposed to background checks and neither is the NRA. I think this is a red herring.”

“What is your position on CA Prop 6?”

Cox: “I think Gavin would not exercise control over the efficiency of Caltrans. There are a lot of contractors that make heavy contributions to Gavin and Brown– they build that into their costs. And the costs get passed on to California taxpayers. We need to get the money out of politics… They supported increasing the gas tax. They didn’t do the tough job. The tough job would be getting Caltrans to live within its means.”

Newsom: “What John just argued for is to make things worse. His plan is to make things worse. He’s talking about taking away over $5 billion every year for road improvements, public safety improvements, addressing the issues of traffic and congestion, which in itself is a hidden tax. He talks about the illusory notion of efficiency. What’s the plan to rebuild the roads and bridges?”

Cox: “In the private sector I can’t waste money. I have to use every dollar efficiently, and that’s not getting done in Sacramento.”

Immigration and Sanctuary Policy

Cox: “Well I think public safety is the most important thing. I’ve talked to sheriffs all over the state who say the sanctuary state law is an impediment to their ability to police their communities and make sure that criminal activity is reduced.”

Newsom: “He parrots at every opportunity, Donald Trump, and Trump would have an advocate in Sacramento if he gets elected. Fundamentally the immigrants in the state are under, not over-respresented in the criminal justice system… Sanctuary policy is nothing more than this: It’s about community policing. It’s about building trust. A victim of a crime is more likely to come forward if they’re not worried about being deported. They’re also more likely this flu season to get an immunization shot for their health.”

Cox: “The country to the south of us had 26,000 murders last year. I don’t want to see guns and trafficking come across that border.”

Newsom: “A sanctuary policy is not a shield for criminal activity.”

Energy and Pollution Policy

Cox: “I want the air as clean as possible. I drive an electric car. I’m proud of that. But are we getting enough of an impact on the world’s atmosphere to justify the cost to the state? India and China are dumping carbon into the atmosphere… We’re going to double electricity prices. We’re going to keep pounding the people in this state into poverty. Electricity prices in this state are already twice what Texas pays.”

Newsom: “John Cox acknowledged enthusiastically that Donald Trump did the right thing when he pulled out of Paris. I disagree with that. I applaud Jerry Brown’s efforts [to get the state to 60% renewable energy by 2030, 100% by 2045].”

Cox: “I favor nuclear power. I think that can be done cleanly… The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, and we need to be sure we have backup power.”

Judge Kavanaugh Nomination: “What’s your take away? What would you tell your daughters?”

Cox: “I regret all the divisiveness in politics today. You see it in this discussion, with Gavin trying to paint me as different on so many issues, and re-characterize my positions. I think we need to take a step back and get more comedy, more kindness… in the discussion.”

Moderator: “Would you have voted to confirm Kavanaugh?”

Cox: “I’m not going to get in the middle of that frankly. I’m focused on the issues in California.”

Newsom: “I think it’s very relevant. It could have a profound effect on California and Californians– their reproductive rights. These things are relevant. Tee issues of private property rights. The issues associated with our DREAMers and our immigration policies. For all those reasons I opposed his nomination, and I think it was a sad day when he got sworn in.”

Closing Statements

Newsom: “The question for the voters is who’s got the best ideas moving forward? Who’s got the practical experience. Who’s got the capacity to deliver? I’ve run a campaign that has been positive. My campaign ads attack problems and policy solutions.”

Cox: “This election is about change versus the status quo. I represent change. My opponent is for the gas tax. For the train to nowhere. His answer to the housing crisis is more government spending. My answer is to reduce housing costs so people can actually afford to live in this state.”