Californians have two options for their next governor: a slick politician and a businessman struggling to get your attention.
On one hand, there’s Gavin Newsom, California’s incumbent lieutenant governor and someone who’s been on the gubernatorial campaign for so long that his technical answers sound like campaign slogans. Newsom is a former two-term San Francisco mayor who has championed everything from legalizing gay marriage before it became mainstream to embracing technology startups to foster local economies. The seasoned politician stands for a variety of progressive issues, including providing state-funded universal health care, maintaining California’s status as a sanctuary state and revamping the state’s infrastructure.
On the other hand, there’s John Cox, a real-estate broker framing himself as a Trumpian businessman who can steer California out of its many crises. Cox was endorsed by President Donald Trump ahead of the June primary election and seems to have just one answer to all of the Golden State’s problems: deregulation.
The choice at the ballots is obvious: Gavin Newsom. His extensive knowledge of the challenges the state’s nearly 40 million residents faces makes him the only suitable candidate for governor. It doesn’t hurt that his opponent is a policy neophyte who seems to talk only in generalities.
But that’s also the problem: The race to the governor’s mansion has been an easy ride for Newsom.
He’s sympathetic to the mainstays of California politics – immigration, aging infrastructure, the convoluted pension system and the perils of global warming – and stands for virtually everything else that tugs at voters’ hearts – universal preschool, lower tuition, you name it. The issues he has policy answers for have largely seen legislation and policy under Gov. Jerry Brown. The remaining ones so far have little beyond emphatic political statements.
Newsom, for example, has said he will address lack of state funding for California universities by changing the state legislature’s trend of divesting from higher education. Yet he has not been able to provide specifics on how he plans to persuade lawmakers to open up the state’s purse.
The same applies to how he will get California to rally behind a universal health care plan that could cost the state government hundreds of billions of dollars.
Don’t get us wrong: Newsom no doubt deserves Californians’ votes. His opponent is far too much of a joke to stand at the helm of the state.
He doesn’t deserve a walk-off win, though. The governorship is a demanding position that requires ideological commitment and strategy. Political capital will only get you so far.