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Newsom Says He’s Not Eyeing Oval Office Despite Shots at GOP Presidential Contenders

If reelected, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he is committed to finishing his four-year term as governor—a promise that reiterates his consistent denial of rumors that he is running for president.

Newsom announced his intention during the first and likely only gubernatorial debate ahead of the Nov. 8 election. He met his opponent, state Sen. Brian Dahle, in San Francisco for a debate aired by KQED Sunday afternoon.

The candidates fielded questions about issues impacting California and presented voters with a picture of how they would approach the job in the final weeks before the Nov. 8 election. Newsom is expected to win reelection over Dahle, a Republican and farmer from rural California who recent polling shows is unfamiliar among most likely voters.

Newsom has hardly campaigned in California this year, instead running billboards and ads in other states to challenge Republican leaders and their policies.

“Everyday Californians understand what’s happening here in California,” Dahle said Sunday. “The governor is focused on running for president, and he’s gonna leave California just like he left San Francisco—with homeless people on the street when he said he was going to solve those issues.”

Newsom has consistently denied rumors that he is planning a presidential run and told moderators he is committed to serving all four years of a second term if reelected. Throughout the debate, Newsom consistently cited Dahle’s voting record, noting that the state senator voted against this year’s budget that included funding for wildfire prevention, tax rebates, and a criminal investigations unit to address fentanyl.

When asked why voters should reelect him, Newsom touted his support for reproductive freedoms, billions of dollars in rebates sent to Californians to address inflation and actions as governor to address the climate crisis. Newsom said the state is “leading the way” on climate issues while taking a jab at Dahle, who he says aims to “reinforce big oil’s talking points.”

Dahle, a state senator from Bieber and vocal critic of the governor, said “there’s nobody that cares more about the climate than myself.” He went on to criticize Newsom’s climate policy and decried the state’s high cost of gas and electricity.

“People are fleeing California because they can’t afford to live here,” Dahle said. “[Newsom’s] driving up the cost of everything in California.”

Dahle repeated this sentiment several times in the debate, asserting that Californians are leaving the state because of Newsom’s policies.

The two candidates spent a sizable period of time talking about inflation and the impact it’s having on Californians—particularly at the gas pump. Newsom agreed that inflation is a big issue impacting voters and touted the $9.5 billion in rebate checks to address the high cost of gas and food.

Dahle reiterated his support for a gas tax holiday to address high costs at the gas pump—a measure legislative Republicans have unsuccessfully tried to push for months. Debate moderators pressed Dahle on how he would ensure that the relief goes to consumers and not back in the pockets of oil companies, to which Dahle responded that he would “force” them but did not lay out a defined plan.

Dahle also largely blamed the incumbent governor for the state’s homelessness issues, claiming that “he throws money at everything, but what are the results?” If elected, Dahle said he would address homelessness by declaring a state of emergency over fentanyl, providing funding for mental health support and driving down the cost of housing.

In response, Newsom noted billions in budget funding for mental health and rapid rehousing programs. The governor also called homelessness an “outrage,” touting his CARE Court plan and saying that the state is going to require accountability from local governments on their response.

“It’s unconscionable what’s happening on the streets and sidewalks—that’s why we’re requiring accountability plans,” Newsom said. “I have 75 accountability plans. We’re not going to hand out any money any longer if local governments can’t produce real results.”

Dahle faced criticism from Newsom for his anti-abortion stance and faced questions on Sunday regarding whether or not he would approve funding for reproductive services and abortion in the state budget if elected governor. Dahle said he would support funding for “reproductive services,” but would not approve funding for out-of-state abortions. When asked if he would support funding for in-state abortions, he said he would allow the funding “if that’s what it takes to get the deal done” with the Legislature.

The debate was aired on KQED Public Television Sunday evening.

By Madison Hirneisen


The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. www.thecentersquare.com

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