California Governor Hopefuls Face Off In Crucial Primary Debate

By: Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio


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When the six leading candidates for California governor debated Tuesday night in San Jose for what might be the only time in this final month before the June 5 primary election, their tactics illustrated each campaign’s strategy as the race enters a crucial stretch.

The frontrunner always draws the most fire in political debates, and it was no surprise that Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom spent much of the night fending off attacks.

His fellow Democrat, Treasurer John Chiang, didn’t wait long before lobbing a criticism on immigration: “I’m gonna protect the dreamers,” Chiang said, referring to DACA recipients at risk of deportation, “and respectfully, I disagree with Gavin, who deported a young child who was undocumented.”

Chiang was referring to a policy of Newsom’s while mayor of San Francisco. Newsom ordered that minors facing felony charges and suspected of being in the country illegally be reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation, regardless of whether they were eventually convicted of a crime.

Newsom’s response, when prompted by moderator Chuck Todd of NBC, illustrated his own strategy aimed at cementing his status as frontrunner: He ignored the other Democrats while attacking the two Republicans: businessman John Cox and Assemblyman Travis Allen. His goal, presumably, was to raise their profiles with GOP voters — and boost their chances at finishing second in June and advancing to the November general election.

When Todd asked Newsom whether he worked with the federal government on deporting minors while mayor, he described himself as a “poster child” for sanctuary policy.

“I think you heard John Cox say that,” Newsom responded. “And if you doubt that, look up Bill O’Reilly and myself, look up Lou Dobbs and myself. We were out there promoting the policy, and I’m very proud of that policy.”

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