Fresno business leaders had the opportunity to meet a group of candidates running for California governor both on and off screen Sunday evening.
A gubernatorial debate watch-party and reception was hosted by the Fresno Chamber of Commerce at its downtown Fresno office for a face-to-face experience between candidates and constituents.
KSEE 24 anchor Evan Onstot moderated the debate that was broadcast live on the NBC-affiliate station. The station reached out to the chamber to host the official watch party, and to host the candidates for a post-debate reception.
In order for a candidate to appear in the debate, the candidate must have polled at or above five percent in the most recent University of California, Berkeley IGS poll.
The four candidates who participated in the debate were Republican Travis Allen, Republican John Cox, Democrat John Chiang and Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom met the requirement but declined to attend
Nathan Ahle, president and CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, said it was an honor to have the candidates visit the Valley and answer questions of local business leaders.
“We pride ourselves on really being leaders when it comes to political action in the Valley,” Ahle said.
The on-air debate featured a number of questions that split the candidates. The topics included immigration reform, healthcare and the state minimum wage.
After the debate, the candidates were driven across town to the chamber offices where they met with the attendees and the press. The Collegian sat down with each candidate and discussed a number of topics pertaining to Fresno State. An affordable college experience was among the most common topics discussed.
Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, pushed the idea of easier access to a higher education. If elected as governor, he plans to honor those students who give back to the community by implementing a new system.
“If you put in a year of service, you’ll get a year of tuition paid,” he said.
He also spoke on the uncertain future of students who are under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Villaraigosa said that he will continue to advocate for immigration reform and for the DACA students who “contribute to the wealth of the state.”
Cox, a businessman and taxpayer advocate, wants a more affordable experience for California residents. He believes that groups like the middle class “can’t afford their lives” when living in California.
A financial burden he plans to help with is the affordability of college so that it can be more accessible to whoever wants to pursue a higher education. He said, “I want to make it so that people can pay for their own college,” as he mentioned the raising tuition cost of public universities.
Cox said he does not want students to feel like they have to “beg” for scholarships and financial aid just to pay for school and graduate without debt.
Chiang, who is also the state treasurer, wants students to know that he is running with a higher education plan in mind. One step in his plan is to give first preference in admission to students living in California.
“For too long they’ve been bringing in more out-of-state students to make up the financial differences,” Cox said.
Another portion of his plan is to restore tuition to where it was in the 2008-09 school year. According to California State University records, undergraduate tuition was $3,048 per year at that time.
If elected governor, Chiang said he would sign legislation that would allow students to renegotiate their private student loans. On the DACA topic, he said he lives with the issue everyday with having a DACA recipient on his own staff.
He said he continues to advocate for others to have the American dream like his father did when he immigrated to the U.S. His message to lawmakers is, “let’s keep our promise,” and recognize the value of those serving the country.
California Assemblyman Travis Allen wants to “fix the broken education system” as part of his five-point plan as governor.
A plan for his “true education reform” is to slash programs that “waste” funding that do not support student success.
“We need to take out all these excess layers of administrators and people that are not directly involved in giving our students a world class education, which is exactly what they deserve,” Allen said.
He also wants to move plans to freeze tuition for a better opportunity for more California university students.
Although the candidates stand opposite on a number of issues, student success is one topic where voters will have to take a closer look for each.