SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The leading Republican candidates running to replace Governor Gavin Newsom in the recall election are making their final campaign pitches on the pandemic, housing, and homelessness.
The latest ABC 10News/Survey USA poll shows the top three Republican candidates are Larry Elder, John Cox, and Kevin Faulconer. Here’s how they compare to each other and the man they are trying to unseat.
On COVID restrictions and vaccine mandates, there are clear battle lines between Governor Newsom and the leading Republicans.
Elder, Cox, and Faulconer have all vowed to repeal Newsom’s vaccine requirements for state workers and teachers.
“I’m not at all against vaccines and I think people in high-risk categories people who are older ought to be vaccinated. But I certainly don’t believe that the government should mandate that people be vaccinated. We still have freedom in this country,” Elder said in an interview with ABC 10News this month.
When it comes to masking requirements, Elder, a conservative talk show host, has voiced the most opposition, saying requiring kids to wear masks is “against science.”
Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox said he considers school mask mandates a “last resort” and prefers “parent choice.”
Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego, said he’s open to masking requirements at schools based on input from doctors if it helps preserve in-person learning.
On housing affordability, the three Republican candidates have all taken aim at the California Environmental Quality Act. They say the regulations should be amended -- or outright suspended -- to streamline the construction of new homes and lower the cost.
Said Faulconer, “California’s too expensive. I’m going to reduce that. I understand how important it is. Because right now, people are voting with their feet. People are voting with their feet. They’re leaving California.”
For his part, Newsom has promised to help build 3.5 million new housing units by 2025, but construction has been below that pace during his first two years in office. That’s partly because of the pandemic, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
Building more housing is also part of each candidate’s approach to tackling homelessness, but they do have some strategic differences.
Faulconer wants to open more shelters and increase enforcement of no-camping laws in public spaces.
Cox argues the number of shelter beds isn’t the problem.
“We have got do the compassionate thing, and we’ve got to get them treatment,” Cox said in an interview with ABC 10News. “Instead, you’ve got people like Gavin Newsom and Kevin Faulconer who just buy hotel rooms -- put them in a hotel room and think they’ve solved the problem. That doesn’t solve the problem; it just gets people off the street.”
Cox argues the real problem is a lack of political will to place homeless people in involuntary treatment programs for mental illness or substance abuse. He supports using conservatorships to force people into treatment.
Instead of leaning on government-led programs to address homelessness, Larry Elder said he wants to empower religious groups and non-profits to help people become self-sufficient.
In July, Governor Newsom signed the state’s largest bill in history to address homelessness. It allocates $12 billion in spending to address the problem over two years.
The bill includes $5.8 billion to create more than 42,000 new homeless housing units. There is $50 million specifically to address homeless encampments.
Separate from the $12 billion package, the legislation sets aside more than $1 billion to help cities pick up trash, clean up streets and freeways, and beautify neighborhoods.