Democratic candidates for California governor reveal positions on single-payer health care and education

The 2018 governor’s race got off to an informal start last week with candidate forums in Anaheim and San Francisco.

Former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom leads all gubernatorial candidates in polling and fundraising. A September Berkeley IGS survey showed he had support from 26 percent of likely voters, followed by Republican businessman John Cox with 11 percent. In campaign finance filings from July, Newsom had $5.3 million in donations this year, state Treasurer John Chiang $2.6 million, Villaraigosa $2.3 million and former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin just over $300,000. His fundraising advantage is even bigger when available funds from previous years are included, an August Los Angeles Times analysis noted.

In the San Francisco forum moderated by Chronicle editorial-page editor John Diaz, Newsom showed why he was recently endorsed by the California Teachers Association. He declined to discuss the specifics of the Vergara v. California case, which pose difficult questions for social justice activists. In the lawsuit, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge found in 2014 that the state’s teacher job-protection laws were unconstitutional because they had led to schools in poor minority communities being much more likely to have ineffective teachers and much more likely to face major layoffs in years with budget cuts. An appellate court threw out the trial court ruling.

Villaraigosa was the only Democratic candidate in the forums to support the Vergara plaintiffs, saying it had long been evident in Los Angeles that tenure and seniority laws hurt schools with heavy concentrations of English-language learners.

Newsom declared that the issues in the Vergara matter had been “litigated” and said that if tenure and seniority changes were needed, they could be collectively bargained. “In other words: They would not happen,” Diaz wrote tartly in his Chronicle column about the forum.

Worries about cost of single-payer dismissed as ‘specious’

On health care, all four Democrats support the concept of a single-payer system, the biggest issue of the California Nurses Association, which endorsed Newsom nearly a year ago. But while Villaraigosa and Chiang have said California needs to figure out how to pay for such a system, Newsom says concerns about cost are “the most specious argument” against a state health-care-for-all system. Senate Bill 562, a bill committing the state to single-payer, passed the Senate earlier this year but stalled in the Assembly after estimates that its annual cost could be $400 billion – more than double the entire state budget.

If Newsom and Villaraigosa finish first and second in the June “top two” primary and give voters a choice between two Democrats in November 2018 – as happened in California’s 2016 U.S. Senate race – teacher tenure/seniority laws and how to adopt and pay for single-payer could dominate the general election fight.

In the forums, there was little difference between the two men on other top issues. Both agreed with the need to build millions of new housing units, to resist Trump administration immigration policies and to provide much more money to public schools.

There is a possibility other prominent Democrats might get in the race. The filing deadline for the June 5 primary isn’t until March 9, and there has been speculation that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti might jump in. But Sunday, Garcetti said on Twitter that he was definitely not going to run for governor.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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