Gavin Newsom and Brian Dahle debate in the race for governor of California

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Governor Gavin Newsom and State Senator Brian Dahle clashed over gas prices, homelessness and abortion rights in the only debate between the two gubernatorial candidates in a race otherwise sleepy for the most powerful office in the state of California.

Newsom is set to win a second term in November’s election against the Republican farmer from rural Northern California, who hammered the governor on Sunday for focusing more on his national ambitions than solving the problems facing the state. confronted.

“The governor is focused on his message to America,” Dahle said. “California people are fleeing California for a reason — because they can’t afford to live here — and it’s out of touch with hard-working, middle-class Californians.”

The match, hosted by KQED on a sunny day in San Francisco, marked one of the few times Newsom has acknowledged his opponent’s existence since the contest began. In the sometimes intense debate, Newsom cast Bieber’s state senator as a Republican Trump, misaligned with California voters.

“I was out of state for a few hours to confront his party and his party leader, Donald Trump, who he is a passionate supporter of,” Newsom said. “I’ve had enough. So, I’ll stand up proudly and happily. What you’re not doing is standing up to big oil companies and big interests.

From the day he launched his campaign earlier this year, Dahle has been an underdog in the race by any definition. He lags far behind Newsom in fundraising, name recognition and polling likely voters.

While Newsom easily grabs media attention as governor of the nation’s most populous state, it’s been harder for Dahle to break through and get his message out to Californians with limited campaign funds.

And Newsom didn’t make it easy for Dahle by largely ignoring the race in his home country.

Newsom has not run a single ad promoting his gubernatorial re-election campaign since before the June primary. During that time, he paid for billboards in conservative states promoting abortion rights in California and ran ads in Florida criticizing the state’s GOP leaders.

“All he has to do is do what it takes to win and he uses his resources to create potential for other future projects nationwide,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican political consultant. .

Apathetic competition at the top of the ticket could suppress voter turnout and have negative consequences for short-ballot races, including congressional contests in California that could determine the balance of power in Washington.

To help inspire Democrat turnout, Newsom turned his attention to Proposition 1, which would bolster California’s already strong abortion protections. The Democratic-controlled state legislature put the measure on the November ballot in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. The party hopes asking voters to weigh in on reproductive rights could inspire Democrats to vote.

The governor, who promotes abortion rights, has spent at least $2 million of his own campaign funds running ads in support of the Prop. 1. Dahle donated $20,000 to the opposition campaign.

“He doesn’t support reproductive freedom, he doesn’t support reproductive choice, whatever rape, whatever incest,” Newsom said of Dahle.

Newsom has been a supporter of reproductive freedom and has invited women from other states with more restrictive policies to travel to California for abortion services. The state budget passed in June included $200 million in new spending for reproductive health services and outreach.

Dahle said he was anti-abortion and criticized the governor’s efforts to pay for abortion services for out-of-state residents “at the expense of California taxpayers.”

Dahle also blamed Newsom for California’s worsening homelessness crisis.

The governor boldly proclaimed at the start of 2020 that homelessness could be solved and promised to mobilize the full force of his administration to solve the problem. But many cities and counties across the state had more homeless residents this year than before the pandemic began.

“The governor is focused on his bid for president and he’s going to leave California, just like he left San Francisco with homeless people all over the streets when he said he was going to fix these issues,” Dahle said. .

Newsom took a more conservative approach to homelessness this year with CARE Court, a program he championed to force care for an estimated 7,000 to 12,000 Californians who are homeless and seriously mentally ill.

Dahle has previously called for a crackdown on homeless encampments and greater incentives for drug addicts and mentally ill people to receive treatment when housed. On Sunday, he said he would call a state of emergency to fight fentanyl, provide more mental health funding to counties and try to bring down the cost of housing.

He also said he would audit homelessness programs while strengthening rehabilitation and mental health services, including those offered by nonprofits and faith-based organizations. He supports building more shelters, accelerating the construction of affordable housing, and imposing fewer building limits under California’s Environmental Quality Act.

“His whole roaming policy is a delusional policy of, ‘Well, we’ll just do an audit,'” Newsom said. “I’ve been around long enough to know that when someone says their answer to a problem is an audit, they don’t have an answer.

Sunday’s debate forum was similar to Newsom’s 2018 practice match with his general election opponent John Cox when the two faced off on a federal holiday via a radio-only format that lacked TV cameras and the typical prime-time audience for such high-profile races.

This time, KQED offered live video and radio feeds from the forum and planned to air the debate on KQED public television in the evening.

The timing left the debate to rival the National Football League on Sunday.

“It’s not exactly the Super Bowl of gubernatorial elections,” said Robin Swanson, a Democratic political consultant. “It’s not an equal game. So, I don’t expect there to be a huge audience.

Stutzman, the GOP political consultant, said it was clear the governor’s team was “hiding behind” the scheduling of football games. Holding the debate on a weekday, by comparison, would have allowed television stations across California to air it on prime-time evening news programs.

Although Newsom is heavily favored to win, he also has more to lose than Dahle, Stutzman said.

“That’s why the favorites never want a debate and a lot of them don’t,” he said.

The two candidates ended the debate on friendly terms after Dahle noted that he welcomed 127 lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — to his district. Newsom, he said, never accepted his offer to come fishing.

“I believe in working together and getting things done with people and listening more and understanding that there are two sides to every story and when you find out the other side you can have more compassion, you can understand, you can learn from it,” Dahle said.

Newsom pledged to work with Dahle, “in your respective role as a state senator, I hope, if I succeed in continuing this role as governor of California.”

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