By Martin Macias Jr.
LOS ANGELES (CN) – Republican gubernatorial candidates vying for the office of governor of California debated at El Camino College in Torrance Tuesday evening, criticizing Democratic state leaders and proposing their respective solutions to problems in the state.
Sacramento businessman Doug Ose was scheduled to speak but dropped out of the race a day before the debate took place, citing a lack of support from conservative donors.
Both candidates blamed Democratic leadership in the state for the rise in the cost of living, lack of affordable housing and crumbling infrastructure in the state. They agreed immediate action was needed to address problems such as homelessness and healthcare, though they offered few ideas on how to fund measures aimed at solving problems.
California State Assemblyman Travis Allen was met with rousing applause from the audience upon taking the stage. He said his campaign plan centered on cutting taxes, being “tough on crime” and fixing the state’s infrastructure.
Allen said the state was becoming unaffordable to live in and crime-ridden. He praised President Donald Trump for what he called “the largest economic boom” the country has seen.
“I just want to bring some of that wealth to California,” he said.
San Diego County resident John Cox said his history as a businessman would stand out to voters.
“People don’t want someone who can say what they want to hear,” he said. “Action matters.”
On the topic of housing affordability, Cox said he has a plan to build 350,000 homes each year if elected governor. Cox cited unions and the California Environmental Quality Act as a barrier to construction of homes that would address the state housing shortage.
Finding solutions to homelessness was a point of agreement for the candidates, who said people living on the street deserved professional support.
Allen said he supports a state program for housing and rehabilitation, while Cox said he would pursue public-private partnerships to address the complex crisis.
On immigration, both candidates agreed on the position of securing the border through the construction of a border wall, a policy that President Trump promotes. Both Allen and Cox said they would repeal SB 54, the so-called sanctuary state law that limits cooperation between local law enforcement officials and federal immigration enforcement.
California State’s Attorney Javier Becerra has said recently he would bring legal action against state businesses that cooperate with immigration enforcement officials. Allen said he has publicly called for the “arrest and prosecution” of Becerra because he is in “violation of federal law.”
Both candidates competed over their support for President Trump.
Cox said he was a “thirty year conservative” with a history of conservative action. Cox chairs the Stop the Gas Tax committee, a statewide petition drive to put a “gas tax” repeal measure on the November 2018 ballot.
He was quick to point out that Allen had given political contributions to prominent Democrats in the past.
According to campaign finance statements, Allen donated $100 to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign in 2010. Newsom is now a rival in the 2018 governor’s race.
El Camino College Debate Club member Rachel Lobo asked the candidates about their positions on gun control and their plan for keeping schools like El Camino safe.
Both candidates were quick to note their membership in and support from the National Rifle Association. They both said the focus of political action should be on mental health and ensuring local law enforcement responds appropriately once notified of potential dangers.
Cox, who said he has four daughters, released a press release after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida asking news media outlets not to release the name and image of the shooter.
“Don’t let them have their last moments of infamy,” he said.
Matias Mayesh, 18, identifies as a conservative voter. He leads the Republican Club at Palos Verdes High School. He said he was there to hear a “battle of ideas” on issues such as immigration and voter ID laws.
Mayesh defended President Trump as an “outsider” and a “fighter” and praised the recent tax reform legislation.
Mayesh is concerned about future of the Republican Party in California, which he hears other young conservatives describe as a “lost cause.”
Event staff counted around 180 ticket holders at the door. The energy of the room felt charged by the framing of the debate by moderator Jennifer Horn as a “mudslinging” event.
A group of protesters rallied outside the event, chanting against racism and holding signs calling for President Trump’s impeachment. They were not allowed inside the event, even though some had tickets.
Tlacaelel Quetzalcoatl said the group was comprised of native activists, anti-racists organizers and other progressives. He said they were there to “confront Trump and supporters of his policies.”
Under the state’s top-two system, a Republican candidate could feature in the general election if the crowded field of Democratic candidates continue to split supporters. At the recent state Democratic convention in San Diego, not a single candidate for office received a high enough percentage of delegate votes to receive the nomination of their party.
Allen said the Republican Party was strong in California, pointing out the support of conservative voters in the state for President Trump in the 2016 election.
“Don’t tell me a Republican can’t win this race,” he said.