Vaccine mandates and the homeless crisis served as major topics during Thursday’s California Recall Debate as three of the dozens of candidates hoping to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom stated their plans to improve conditions in the state.
Businessman John Cox, former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley had their differences but expressed agreement on a number of issues, including vaccines and vaccine mandates. The tone throughout remained civil, with no shouting or talking over each other.
Each said human-caused climate change is real, each supports building a border wall — but Cox and Faulconer said that’s a federal issue.
Perhaps the biggest difference in responses came when asked if they would vote for Donald Trump if he ran for president in 2024.
Cox said he would if the choice is between Trump and another term for President Joe Biden. Faulconer said that’s a decision he’ll make when the time comes.
And Kiley said, “I stay out of national politics,” choosing to focus instead on state issues.
All three said they got vaccinated as soon as they could and encouraged others to get vaccinated. And they said local health officials, not the governor, should be in charge of decisions regarding vaccine mandates.
Faulconer said a number of businesses closed because of Newsom’s “one-size-fits-all” policy instead of letting local government make decisions.
Cox also favored local authority, saying the state has treated children like pawns by forcing them to wear masks. Parents should be able to make decisions as to what’s best for their children, he said.
It’s vitally important to protect the rights of minority groups when it comes to vaccines and mandates, Kiley said. The state used to give exemptions for people based on religious and personal beliefs, and those beliefs should be respected, he said.
Asked how he would deal with members of the homeless community who refuse to move to a shelter, Faulconer said as mayor of San Diego he didn’t allow tent encampments on sidewalks. Instead, he created a shelter network.
He said he’d do the same as governor.
“It’s the right thing to do, to help people,” he said.
The state’s homelessness issue is a leadership problem, Kiley said in response to the same question. There needs to be a roof over the head of every person.
He added that the homeless can be moved from the streets if there is space available for them at a shelter.
Instead of putting the homeless in hotel rooms, place them centers where they can be treated for drug addiction or mental health issues, Cox said. He said political insiders have illustrated their worst failures when it comes to their treatment of the homeless.
The recall election takes place Sept. 14.
The candidates’ campaigns
Cox’s ads prominently feature a 1,000-pound Kodiak bear — which has also appeared at campaign stops — and call for “beastly change.” He says his 10-year plan will cut homelessness in half by prioritizing treatment and lowering housing costs, and he’ll cut income taxes by $30 billion, close tax loopholes for corporations and “squeeze every penny he can out of state government.”
Cox ran in 2008 for the Republican presidential nomination, and in 2018, he won 38% of the vote against Newsom.
Faulconer has proposed establishing a new department focused on wildfire prevention, enacting a plan to help restaurants recover from the pandemic, expand access to mental health services and addiction treatment for the homeless and pass a tax cut plan so that everyone in the state making less than $1 million will get relief.
He has encouraged everyone to get vaccinated and during the first debate was critical of state efforts to expand health care for people who entered the country illegally.
Kiley, elected to the California State Assembly in 2016, has been one of Newsom’s most vocal critics. The former prosecutor said it’s a “personal choice” whether to get vaccinated and said he would end the state of emergency for the pandemic.
He has argued the state’s taxes are too high, especially targeting the gas tax.
KRON4 and the Associated Press contributed to this report.