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It’s Gavin Newsom versus John Cox for the state’s top job.

The next governor’s to-do list is not for the faint of heart. The person who gets the job will need to keep the budget in check, prepare California for environmental disasters (see: our year-long wildfire season and overdue great earthquake) and manage a deep housing affordability crisis that’s led to rising rates of homelessness. There’s also the matter of navigating the Golden State’s complicated relationship with the Trump administration.

As Gov. Jerry Brown so cheerfully bid his successor in his final State of the State address: “What’s out there is darkness, uncertainty, decline and recession. So good luck, baby.”

Choose wisely.

John Cox

Age 63

Venture capitalist

Lives in Rancho Santa Fe

John Cox

John Cox is a venture capitalist from Rancho Santa Fe who’s made unsuccessful runs for U.S. president and for Barack Obama’s Senate seat in Illinois.

His main refrain: Get the special interests out of government. He’s a fan of free markets, fewer regulations and lower taxes. He made a big push to dramatically alter the way state lawmakers are elected, by creating as many as 12,000 “neighborhood councils” with their own representatives. They would in turn select a district representative at the state level. The proposal failed to make this year’s November ballot.

Gavin Newsom

Age 50

Lieutenant governor

Lives in Marin County

Gavin Newsom

Gavin Newsom has been second-in-command to Gov. Jerry Brown for the last eight years, and is a former mayor and district supervisor of San Francisco.

He made his mark nationally in 2004 when, as San Francisco’s mayor, he began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That helped set off a maelstrom of debate around same-sex marriage that ultimately culminated in the 2015 Supreme Court decision to uphold the right of those couples to marry.

Where do the candidates stand on the issues that matter to you?
Crime & law enforcement
John Cox

Cox has said the next governor must be tough on crime. “I lament the fact that our criminal justice system is letting so many people out and doing plea bargains to let people out on the streets,” he said at an Oct. 8 gubernatorial debate, referencing Gov. Jerry Brown’s record of allowing the vast majority of parole recommendations to go forward. Cox also says he opposes Proposition 47, which reduced many felonies to misdemeanors.

Cox says he opposes two bills passed by lawmakers to give the public access to internal investigations of police shootings and police camera video of the shootings. “I favor transparency, but I think we have to work more with our law enforcement and give them the tools and the ability to deal with particular situations,” he said during the debate. He added that “opening up private personnel records just creates a fishing expedition for trial lawyers.”

He also opposed a bill passed this year that scraps California’s cash bail system. Cox predicted the bill would create a need for more government workers to round up defendants who don't show up in court while eliminating the private bail industry.

Gavin Newsom

Newsom says Gov. Brown took an “enlightened approach” to criminal justice, and says he wants to build on that legacy.

Newsom is in favor of the two bills California lawmakers passed to give the public access to internal investigations and video footage of police shootings. “At the same time you can be pro-public safety and pro-civil rights and due process, and I think we found a nice balance with the legislation the governor signed,” he said at an Oct. 8 gubernatorial debate.

He also supports California’s move to do away with the cash bail system, calling it an “extraordinary step forward in a civil rights effort.” He added that the next governor must be cautious about implementing the new law.

Gas tax
John Cox

Cox and state Republicans have made a crusade out of their opposition to the recent increase in gas tax and vehicle fees for road and bridge repairs. He backs Proposition 6, the statewide measure to roll back the increases and ensure no future gas tax hikes are passed without voter approval.

To address the need to pay for repairs and maintenance, Cox called for making CalTrans more efficient, citing California's high cost of repairing roads.

Gavin Newsom

Newsom opposes Proposition 6 and dismisses the idea that rooting out inefficiencies in CalTrans’ budget will be enough to generate the needed money for infrastructure repairs across the state.

He said 27 states have raised their gas taxes since 2013 as California has done for road repairs.

Environment & climate change
John Cox

Cox opposes Gov. Brown’s efforts to get California to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. At the October gubernatorial debate, he called it a “wonderful, lofty goal” but one that would raise electricity prices. “We’re gonna keep pounding the people of this state into poverty,” he said.

He also said he supports nuclear energy and natural gas as clean power sources. At the October debate, Cox said he believes the earth is getting warmer, but added, “The point is: Are we getting enough impact on the world’s atmosphere to justify the cost to the people of the state?”

Gavin Newsom

Newsom says California has a unique responsibility to be a national and international leader in combating climate change. He’s praised Gov. Brown’s efforts to guide California to 60 percent renewable energy by the year 2030 and 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

He also said as governor he might take stronger action against hydraulic fracturing, which Gov. Brown has refused to ban. “The fracking experiment is beginning to wane, so I think that’s a natural opportunity for the next governor to get a little more aggressive,” he said.

John Cox

We need to get rid of burdensome regulations on home builders, Cox says. He wants to do away with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires developers to get projects assessed for their environmental impact. “It’s all a honeypot for trial lawyers to sue,” he said at a San Diego forum in March.

He says he’d replace CEQA with reforms that will streamline the process of approving construction, and, if elected, he’d work to build 350,000 homes a year.

Gavin Newsom

Build, build, build. Newsom touts a goal of building 3.5 million new homes in California by the year 2025 to address the affordability crisis. Newsom also supports the Gov. Brown-backed $4 billion bond for affordable housing projects on the November ballot.

He’s also talked about the need to tackle the housing problem through regulatory reform and carrot-and-stick incentives for neighborhoods to produce more housing.

John Cox

Cox says reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) will also alleviate the homelessness problem. But he also wants to use to use public-private partnerships with nonprofits or religious groups to provide services to homeless people.

He also says the cost of prison operations is contributing to homelessness: “We can’t afford to keep people in jail, so we’re releasing them to the streets,” he said in January.

Gavin Newsom

Housing is a cornerstone of his plan to confront homelessness: “We need to recognize this fundamental fact: Shelters solve sleep. Housing solves homelessness,” Newsom said at a gubernatorial town hall in January.

On top of that, he’s called for a statewide interagency council to fight homelessness, overseen by a secretary of homelessness, as well as more aggressive advocacy of the federal Supplemental Security Income to help vulnerable groups.

John Cox

No more sanctuary cities, Cox says. “We cannot have people who are here illegally committing crimes and being defended by taxpayer laws,” he said at a January forum. Cox supports Trump’s plan to build a border wall, but also says immigrants eligible for DACA should be protected.

Gavin Newsom

Yes to California’s “sanctuary” status and yes to comprehensive immigration reform. He supports SB 54, California’s sanctuary state law that limits when state and local law enforcement can cooperate with federal authorities to enforce immigration laws.

He also says he will resist any efforts from the Trump administration to roll back DACA protections or strip away federal funding from cities.

Health care
John Cox

For Cox, it’s all about the free market. Cox says competition produces better results. He says a universal health care system would add a burden to the taxpayers, would affect the quality of care, and would attract an influx of newcomers seeking free health services.

“[If] you want to make health care more expensive and rationed, turn it all over to the government,” he said at a gubernatorial town hall in January.

Gavin Newsom

Newsom has championed a universal health care program, akin to the Healthy San Francisco plan he helped roll out in the city when he was mayor. In an interview with KPCC in January, he called it a “bridge to the ideal,” referring to his support for a single-payer health care system for California.

Newsom acknowledges legal hurdles the state would face to create Canadian-style single-payer health care proposed in the SB 562 bill, which stalled in the Assembly. Still, he told KPCC he wants to use SB 562 as the “corpus of the plan” to achieve single-payer in California.