You wouldn’t expect much disagreement among four Democratic candidates for governor at a forum on reproductive rights hosted by NARAL, and tonight in San Francisco, we got what you would expect. All four agreed with each other – and the hosts – on most of the major issues related to women’s health and abortion rights.
In fact, if anything, at the debate tonight they were trying to outdo each other for who was more pro-choice. Truth is, they all are.
There were interesting distinctions, though –some of the candidates (especially John Chiang and Antonio Villaraigosa) were a bit unclear on how the state should respond to the fake reproductive rights centers that have been cropping up all over California. There are more than 200 places ow that advertise as pregnancy crisis centers – and they’re run by the religious right, with the goal of intimidating women into accepting an unwanted pregnancy.
The state Legislature passed AB 775, which mandates disclosure for these creepy fake “health clinics,” but it’s now in the courts (and it’s not clear how the Trump Supreme Court will rule). So the question was: Beyond that law, what can you do about this scam?
John Chiang said something about challenging the center’s nonprofit status. Antonio Villaraigosa talked about working with the attorney general. At least Gavin Newsom and Delaine Eastin were clear: The governor has to call them out, help the public understand what these places are.
The bigger distinction: Only Newsom and Eastin were clearly in support of single-payer health care. Villaraigosa talked about raising the floor for access to Medicare, and Chiang said that all of the candidates “generally support single-payer” but wanted to know how to pay for it.
Newsom pointed out that maternal mortality rates in the US are the highest in the developed world. He was clearly the best informed on the health-care issue.
Eastin, the only woman in the group, in many ways stole the show. She was the only one with a sense of humor, the only one who talked about the need for affordable child care, and the only one who didn’t seem to be repeating well-prepared lines. When the candidates were asked about providing abortion pills on college campuses, and birth-control pills over the counter, Newsom said something about how we have to “step up and step in.” Eastin just said: “For heaven’s sake, why would that be a problem?”
Before the debate, I went backstage and got a chance to talk to all the candidates. My question was of a different nature – and I got very different responses. I wanted to know where the candidates stood on repealing Costa-Hawkins and on Sen. Scott Wiener’s SB 827, which would give massive density and height bonuses to private developers who build near transit lines.
First: All of the candidates like SB 827, although none of them seemed to understand what it would really do. All of them said they wanted to build more private-sector housing.
But Eastin was clear on Costa-Hawkins: She’s for repeal. “It’s been a disaster,” she told me. “I have never seen so many so many homeless people on the streets.”
Repeal would allow cities to extend rent controls to vacant apartments. That would radically cut down on evictions. It might be the most important thing anyone in Sacramento can do right now about the housing crisis and homelessness.
The Three Guys were all, in one way or another, ducking the issue. Chiang told me “we have to do something, but I’m not sure what.” Villaraigosa said he voted against Costa-Hawkins in the legislature but wasn’t sure what to do now except to push for more inclusionary housing. Newsom said, “I have dived too deep into that,” although he was the mayor of a city that suffered under a lack of effective rent control.
There you have the state of California politics, 2018.