SAN DIEGO (CN) – Democratic gubernatorial candidates vying to replace Gov. Jerry Brown in November debated in San Diego Thursday night how to maintain the Golden State’s strict gun laws and reduce poverty.
All four Democratic candidates agreed on nearly every topic moderator Sen. Holly Mitchell threw at them, from how best to mitigate climate change to reducing poverty, but things got lively when they discussed single-payer health care.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Treasurer John Chiang, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former state superintendent of public instruction Delaine Eastin came out like a magic trick from behind sliding barn doors on the stage at the Jacobs Center located in the Chollas View neighborhood of southeastern San Diego, a mostly Black and Latino community.
Newsom and Villaraigosa are the top two candidates for the June primary, with Newsom leading by two points, according to a poll released earlier this month by the Public Policy Institute of California.
At the top of the hour-long debate, the candidates discussed gun control in light of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 people died last week.
Newsom pointed to gun control measures in the 90s which led to a decline in gun-related deaths.
“Gun control saves lives and we need to push back,” Newsom said.
The lieutenant governor said California needs to push back on legislation in Washington D.C. aimed at easing restrictions for carrying concealed firearms across state lines. He said the bill, which passed in the House in December, is universally opposed by law enforcement and prosecutors.
Villaraigosa said California should invoke the Tenth Amendment in exerting its right as a state to stop the legislation.
Eastin, who got big cheers throughout the night despite being an underdog in the governor’s race, criticized Brown for vetoing the expansion of the use of restraining orders to take guns away from people deemed to be dangerous. If Brown had signed the bill, it would have allowed co-workers, mental health professionals and teachers to file gun violence restraining orders in addition to family members and law enforcement.
She suggested “teachers may see something parents don’t” because of the amount of time they spend with students.
The law has been invoked several times the past few months by San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott, who has filed 10 restraining orders against gun owners who were considered dangerous.
The future of California’s children was a theme throughout the debate, with the candidates touching on the state’s highest poverty rate in the nation, homelessness and cost of living and the need for more support and funding for schools instead of prisons.
They also vowed to fight President Donald Trump’s immigration policies with Newsom calling the border wall “a monument to idiocy” and Chaing vowing to keep former President Barack Obama’s promise to young people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
Villaraigosa challenged Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s recent strategies to enter courthouses, schools and public buildings to detain immigrants in the country illegally.
“You ought to have a specific warrant for a specific individual and stop terrorizing our communities,” Villaraigosa said.
“When you say to the police department, ‘Your job is protecting public safety, not enforcing immigration laws,’ your city will be safer.”
Newsom and Villaraigosa got into a spat over Newsom’s stance on single-payer health care, which Villaraigosa said his opponent has “been all over the map on this issue” in flip-flopping on his position.
Newsom retorted: “I want to defeat Trumpism and I want to defeat defeatist Democrats” in claiming single-payer health care is not more expensive but “costs less.”
The candidates were scheduled to speak at the California Democratic Party’s annual conference in San Diego this weekend.
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