Governor of California
The State of California is seeking a chief executive to lead 40 million increasingly dissatisfied residents through major challenges, including a sky-high cost of living, widespread homelessness, rampant wildfires, record drought and the tail end of a deadly pandemic.
- Management skills: Oversee a state bureaucracy of more than 200 agencies and 230,000 workers, with an opportunity to reshape policy on everything from oil drilling to parole decisions through appointments to public offices, board and commissions.
- Good with numbers: Must annually propose a state spending plan, then negotiate with the Legislature to adopt a balanced budget that has grown to more than $200 billion a year.
- Analytical and decisive: Expected to review more than 1,000 bills passed each year by legislators and sign them into law — or veto them.
- Public speaking experience: Aside from the annual State of the State address, regular duties include press conferences to tout policy priorities, speeches to advocacy groups and briefings to keep Californians updated during natural disasters.
$218,556 plus a mansion in downtown Sacramento and frequent appearances in the national media.
About the hiring process:
This is the third time that Californians are voting for governor in the past four years. Democrat Gavin Newsom won a decisive blowout in 2018, then beat back a recall attempt last September by a nearly identical margin. As he pursues a second and final four-year term, Newsom faces Brian Dahle, a little-known Republican legislator from rural Northern California.
Even with some voters souring on the governor’s performance, it will take a miracle to unseat Newsom and his $25 million campaign war chest in this overwhelmingly Democratic state. He won 56% of the vote in the June primary, and in an August poll led Dahle by 55% to 31% among likely voters.
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Here’s where Brian Dahle and Gavin Newsom, applicants for governor, stand on some of the biggest questions facing California.
Californians are increasingly concerned about crime, though the numbers paint a more complicated picture. Many Republicans are seeking to pounce, blaming voter-approved Proposition 47, which eight years ago lowered some crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. While more Democrats are talking tough, they’re not proposing a return to longer prison sentences.
“1. Bolstering local law enforcement response to stop and apprehend criminals 2. Ensuring prosecutors are holding perpetrators accountable 3. Getting guns and drugs off our streets.”
“We need to fund public safety in a manner that is appropriate to get the job done. And that is done obviously at the local level. ... We've shoved our responsibilities down on the local level. They're drowning... It's basically a revolving door. They don't have the personnel.”
“Our plan will create a new statewide gun buyback program, working with local law enforcement to provide matching grants and safe-disposal opportunities to get guns off our streets… My administration is working with the California Legislature to propose a nation-leading law that would allow private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes or sells unlawful assault weapons, as well as ‘ghost guns,’ ghost gun kits or their component parts.”
“I will fund local law enforcement to go retrieve people who are felons that shouldn't have firearms and take them away from them. … So domestic violence, people who are not stable, quite frankly, and they know they have firearms and we have the ability to go take those away, we should.”
California’s affordable housing crisis only deepened during the pandemic, as average home prices surged even further out of reach for many families. Homelessness likely worsened as well, prompting Gov. Newsom to propose forcing more homeless and mentally ill people into treatment. The Legislature twice extended a statewide eviction moratorium, but the final protections for renters ended on March 31. Lawmakers also tried to pump up housing supply by allowing duplexes on single-family lots, but cities are pushing back. Some also say the California Environmental Quality Act is stopping housing production.
“We have done more in the past three years than ever before in California history to invest in housing construction and cut government red tape blocking construction. The budget I signed last year invested a historic $10.3 billion – by far the most ever invested in housing – into a comprehensive housing affordability strategy, while also implementing new laws and accountability measures. This year, I proposed a $2 billion investment to boost housing production and preserve affordable housing across the state.”
“I actually think CEQA was a great law. … Unfortunately, it's turned into a pawn in many schemes. … We need to, first of all, hold people accountable who are using CEQA to sue just to extract. … If you frivolously sue and you lose and continue to lose, you have to pay. You have to pay for this because you're just holding up the process.”
“The next phase of our approach is creating the Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court — a new framework to get people with mental health and substance use disorders the support and care they need. … CARE Court includes accountability for everyone – on the individual and on local governments – with court orders for services.”
“There are not enough clinicians, period. Number one. We need to prioritize giving tax credits or something, or education vouchers, for people that want to go into social services work. … I prefer to give block grants to counties, because counties are really the ones that are going to implement these services and this is a very diverse state.”
Even though the economy is rebounding from COVID, California still has among the nation’s highest jobless rates and hasn’t recovered all the jobs lost. The pandemic also highlighted how much the state relies on the wealthy for tax revenues that are fueling record budget surpluses — and raised again the issue of whether the tax system needs an overhaul.
“Make California the first state in the nation to offer universal access to healthcare coverage. … Doubling down on plans to achieve free, universal pre-K, add thousands of child care slots… Create more housing California desperately needs, with billions in new grants and tax credits. Invest in small businesses, waiving fees and providing hundreds of millions in grants and tax breaks to small businesses.”
“We have 60% higher electricity rates on average than anybody in the nation…so we need to take a look at…for all energy produced in California, what the bang for the buck we're getting. … We should be producing our oil here because we do it in a way better than anybody in the world, safer, more environmentally friendly.”
“California has made major strides to expand services and supports for young children and their families by promoting and expanding quality, comprehensive programs and services for young children, including universal transitional kindergarten. We are employing a two-generation strategy — investing in parents so they can invest more in their children.”
“You have to allow companies to be able to stay in California, make sure that they have incentives to stay in California, and that'll allow them to hire, which gives you good-paying jobs. … And by driving down the cost of living — your transportation, your electricity bill, your heat bill — those things directly are like putting dollars per hour in your pocket.”
On Jan. 31, the Legislature — despite its Democratic supermajority — again rebuffed a bid by progressives for a single-payer system funded and run by state government. Instead, the state is moving to expand eligibility for Medi-Cal, though the proposal would leave out many. And California is still sorting out how to deal with COVID, though regarding it more as a predictable threat.
“California was the first state to provide premium relief for middle-class families who buy on the health care exchange, and this year California could become the first state to reach universal access to health care. We have taken on the pharmaceutical industry and are using our market power to drive down the cost of life saving medications like insulin.”
“Our health care problems are because we eat horrible. I'm a farmer. Anything that comes in a package that wasn't packaged by God is not healthy for you. I'm just going to tell you that. … We need to start educating young people and parents on our diet, which will help curve our later in life cost of healthcare. … The other thing we need to do is we need to have more competition in pharmaceuticals where we can drive the cost down.”
“California is using proven tools – rooted in science and data – that have been honed over the past two years. We’re keeping our guard up with a focus on continued readiness, awareness, and flexibility to adapt to the evolving pandemic.”
“We don't need to be in a state of emergency with the governor making all the decisions. I actually have a bill that says the Legislature should, during a state of emergency, every 45 days decide whether we should be in a state of emergency and actually have that power. … I would consult with many doctors and consult with the Legislature, because we're all in this together.”
California is stuck in a drought, with few signs the emergency will improve any time soon — or that voluntary measures will be enough. The state is also struggling to reach its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also advancing environmental justice for communities with dirty air and water.
“We all must do more to adjust and adapt. That’s why I called on local water agencies to implement more aggressive water conservation measures, including having the Water Board evaluate a ban on watering ornamental grass on commercial properties, which will drive water use savings at this critical time.”
“That's just a sound bite that I don't believe is going to make much difference at all. … We don't manage our water very well in our reservoirs. We let that water go when we should be conserving that water. ... We've conserved water in California about to where it's really hard to conserve without fallowing land, which we're going to do this year. … It's a lot of economic reduction in California.”
“California will continue to lead the world in turning our climate resolve into real action…bolstering the clean energy economy and creating new jobs, decreasing reliance on fossil fuels, building more prosperous and sustainable communities for all, and protecting Californians from the extreme effects of climate change.”
“You want to save the environment? Build transmission lines. Period. We have power that we're exporting out of California. We just need to use it in California, drive the cost down. I think we need to make sure the grid is in a place where we can actually put electric vehicles and hubs in the cities. We need charging stations. We can't have electric vehicles if we don't have enough charging stations.”
Public school enrollment has plummeted during COVID, the achievement gap for students of color has stubbornly persisted and the state is facing a severe teacher shortage. There are renewed debates whether more charter schools are a solution and whether the state’s extra investment in schools with poorer students is paying off.
“After decades of bitter fights between both sides, I brought charter and traditional schools together to pass a framework for both sides to work collaboratively in service of their communities and neighborhoods. The reforms I signed into law ensure that students have qualified teachers in all classrooms and ensure California education dollars are spent wisely.”
“If there's opportunity for the parents to be able to choose where their kids go to school, and they get to direct the money, you would see a lot of change. I think you'd see a lot better schooling.”
While California boasts the best and biggest public university systems in the nation, they’re in turmoil. The University of California is facing a student housing crunch at the same time it is under intense pressure to increase the number of in-state students. UC Berkeley needed intervention by lawmakers to avoid an enrollment cap. Meanwhile, the California State University just had its chancellor forced out and is struggling to improve access, including enough student housing.
“My priority has been expanding access for students across our higher education system, with a focus on expanding enrollment for in-state residents and community-college transfers at the UC System. Since taking office, California has increased enrollment of nearly 5,000 full-time equivalent students within the UC system and nearly 10,000 full-time equivalent students within the California State University system.”
“I like to see more of our Californians be able to have an opportunity to go.”