SAN DIEGO (CN) – As President Donald Trump toured border-wall prototypes near the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego on Tuesday, Republicans vying to replace California Gov. Jerry Brown vowed to repeal sanctuary-state laws if elected.
“I will end this sanctuary-state business right off the bat. The federal law is the law of the land; it’s horrendous for local officials to not work with law enforcement,” candidate John Cox told the crowd of about 150 Republicans gathered at a debate hosted by the Conservative Order for Good Government in Poway, north of San Diego.
State Assemblyman Travis Allen, Cox’s opponent, vowed to reverse sanctuary-state laws within 100 days of being elected. He said he appeared on Fox News three months ago calling for the federal government to sue California over policies aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants from deportation, claiming the government “listened” when it filed a lawsuit against California last week.
The debate, which got off the ground nearly 30 minutes late after Allen’s flight from Sacramento was delayed, was moderated by longtime San Diego Republican Carl DeMaio. DeMaio has mounted a statewide signature-gathering campaign to repeal a gas tax which took effect in 2017, and wants his repeal imitative included on the November 2018 ballot.
Signature-gatherers with petitions in hand made the rounds at the luncheon debate after DeMaio asked, “Who here has not signed the gas-tax repeal?”
Both candidates have ties to San Diego, with Cox, a businessman, and his family currently living in the city. Allen said he was “born and raised in San Diego five minutes away from the U.S.-Mexico border,” but that his friends and family have since moved out of the state due to the rising cost of living in California.
Interestingly, both Republican candidates called themselves “environmentalists” but said they would repeal the state’s ban on single-use plastic bags when questioned by DeMaio.
“Every Californian loves the environment, but we’re not extreme environmentalists,” Allen said in noting Huntington Beach is the only city in the state to repeal a ban set in place by city leaders. The coastal enclave’s actions have since been undone by California voters, who approved a ban on the single-use bags in 2016.
He said such “environmentalist” laws “stop business” when anti-littering laws already in place could just be better enforced to prevent pollution.
Cox, perhaps the more centrist of the two candidates, said he believes “humans have some impact” on the environment. But he also said the recent wildfires in Santa Barbara County polluted California’s air more than the carbon output from cars for an entire year.
He acknowledged some areas in the state “could stand for more density” when it comes to building homes, but said the California Environmental Quality Act has been “turned into a trial lawyer’s bonanza” by tying up new construction in litigation for years before anything is ever built.
The candidates mostly agreed on the major talking points, with Allen citing his voting record as a state assemblyman and Cox citing his business background as their top qualifying traits for serving as governor. They also compared their policies to Democratic candidate Gavin Newsom, who leads polls in the governor’s race.
But the candidates got into a bit of a tiff over who is “more conservative” and supported Trump when DeMaio asked them how they would deal with the “issue of Trump” and Trump voters.
Cox said he was unsure at first if Trump was a “true” conservative and that he “supports actions, not rhetoric,” before eventually saying he supports the president.
Allen, who said he is endorsed by the political action group Californians for Trump, said if all the Californians who voted for Trump voted for him in the November 2016 election, he could become governor.
While just over 3.9 million Californians voted for Trump in 2016, nearly 7.4 million sided with his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.