It’s hard to run as the change agent in the California governor’s race when you’re the state’s second-ranking elected leader. But Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is giving it his best shot.

Since launching his bid for governor in early 2015 (arguably, since he was first elected to the position of lieutenant governor five years earlier), Newsom has championed himself as the more progressive, fierier alternative to Gov. Jerry Brown. That’s been a fine line to walk on the campaign trail where Newsom, a Democrat and the front-runner in a crowded gubernatorial field, has been selective about which components of Brown’s legacy to embrace and which to jettison.

On climate change policy, K-12 education funding reform, and the expansion of Medi-Cal, Newsom is happy to bear the imprint of the current administration. On single-payer health care, higher education funding, homelessness, and universal pre-school? “With respect”—as Newsom often says when he disagrees with someone—not so much.

That’s a balance that Newsom struck during a recent visit to CALmatters. In some cases, he paid homage to Brown, who remains popular with a majority California voters, according to a new poll. In others, he highlighted his areas of disagreement.

Sometimes he did both at once. Read more:

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Ben Christopher

Ben covers California politics and elections. Prior to that, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and budget. Based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, he has written...