LOS ANGELES (CN) – California Democratic gubernatorial candidates at a Wednesday evening forum stressed the next leader of the Golden State will have to improve the state’s infrastructure and education standards and added the next governor’s job duties will include standing up to President Donald Trump.
Candidates included former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, State Treasurer John Chiang and Delaine Eastin, former state superintendent of public instruction. All said California will have to contend with the Trump administration if it wants to stay on track with setting high goals for climate standards or protecting its immigrant population.
Eastin said she was not always a fan of the Tenth Amendment, which defines the balance of power between the states and the federal government.
“Today, I like the Tenth Amendment. This state needs to stand tall and together,” Eastin said.
The next governor will need to have a “brass backbone,” she added.
Chiang said it’s not clear what the Trump administration’s strategies are with regards to tariffs on Chinese goods, noting the impact to California will hurt the state.
Last month, the federal government sued California over its immigration policies. More recently, several California communities voted to oppose the state’s sanctuary status.
“If he wants to build a wall, I will build a door,” said Villaraigosa, referring to Trump’s plans to build a wall along the Mexico-US border.
Carrying on a theme that has played out throughout the governor’s race, the candidates took jabs at Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom’s absence. Newsom is leading in the polls, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
According to last month’s statewide survey, Newsom leads at 28 percent, Republican candidate John Cox at 14 percent and Villaraigosa at 12 percent.
Villaraigosa called the tax system broken, while Eastin said that Prop. 13, which reduced property rates in 1978, is now lopsided and favors businesses over homeowners.
In a room full of business owners this generated the most applause. “It’s the elephant in the room,” said Eastin. “If we reverted Prop. 13… we would generate a lot of income for our schools.”
Where the candidates disagreed was on healthcare. Eastin supports the Healthy California Act, which has not made it out of the state assembly, but through the plan the state would pay for all healthcare costs.
European countries with enviable healthcare systems make their own pharmaceuticals and pass those savings on to their residents, Eastin said.
“You have to believe there is a way for us to do it in California,” Eastin said. Villaraigosa said the plan would double the size of taxes and would be passed off to small business owners.
The candidates also touched on the need for inclusion in the entertainment industry and in the business community, entailing better representation in board rooms, movies and give more people of color a chance to have their voices heard.
Cohesion in the Latino business community is lacking, said financial planner Claudio Alejandro Ordenes who attended the forum. California has the largest Hispanic and Latino population overall in the United States, but to him it looks like a group of microcosms.
“If the next governor can provide for them, they could take great advantage of that educated business community,” Ordenes said.
Candidates discussed their views in a forum hosted by the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce just 61 days from the June primaries.
California goes to the polls on June 5.