I shouldn’t have expected much from the first statewide televised debate for governor. I got even less.
The two Republicans – John Cox and Travis Allen – both sounded like complete right-wing idiots, trying to out-Trump each other. They were obviously scrambling for the small percentage of hard-core GOP voters who might put them into the Number Two position, keeping them alive until November.
But none of the Democrats said anything that interesting or profound – and the panel of journalists didn’t help.
The discussion started off with homelessness. Every single candidate – not just the Republicans – talked about the private market building more housing and about getting rid of red tape, regulations, and roadblocks to development.
Not one candidate said that the state should put significant money into building affordable housing in cities. Nobody said that the state should allow cities to raise taxes on the rich to pay for housing. Not one candidate said that the state should stop blocking the ability of cities to protect tenants and existing affordable housing.
And none of the panelists tied to push the housing issue.
Everyone agreed that traffic is bad. Nobody talked about growth and whether developers and tech companies should pay the full cost of their impacts on local communities.
Delaine Eastin at least addressed issues directly. She talked about the need for an oil-severance tax to pay for high-speed rail (which everyone else ducked about). She talked about the need for universal childcare. She called for a split-role measure to reform Prop. 13.
Gavin Newsom sounded like he sounded as mayor of San Francisco – lots of platitudes and nothing specific. Antonio Villaraigosa wasn’t much better.
And we watched an entire 90-minute debate without most of the candidates talking seriously about rent control, state control over local government, Prop. 13, single-payer health care, or so many other key issues facing the state.
None of the all-star journalists on the panel, led by NBC’s Chuck Todd, seemed to want to push the candidates on the most serious issues facing the state. We heard a lot of talk about “character” and whether the extramarital affairs of Newsom and Villaraigosa ought to disqualify them for high office. We heard Scott Shafer ask what “sacrifices” the candidates have made (they all said it was tough to be in public office).
Newsom talked about how he used the “rainy day fund” to make sure there were no layoffs of cops or firefighters while he balanced local budgets. The fact is, the law requires that San Francisco balance its budget – and Newsom wasn’t the one who pushed the “rainy day fund.” That was Tom Ammiano. Newsom also takes credit for Ammiano’s efforts to create universal health care in the city.
All of the Democrats denounced Trump and said they would support Sanctuary State. All of the Republicans promoted racist anti-immigrant sentiments.
I don’t know if a single voter who watched the debate changed their mind. This is the biggest state in the nation, with the fifth-largest economy in the world, and a long, long list of serious problems.
And nobody who is running for governor – and none of the reporters who had the chance to question them – seemed to take this seriously.
I want to throw up.