California gubernatorial candidates from left, John Chiang, Delaine Eastin, Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa in October 2017. AP
California gubernatorial candidates from left, John Chiang, Delaine Eastin, Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa in October 2017. AP

Editorials

Can you afford a California home? Take that answer to the 2018 voting booth

By the Editorial Board

January 01, 2018 05:00 AM

On Friday, gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa tweeted: “31 percent of poor families spend more than half of their income on housing, making it difficult to meet basic needs.”

Like all tweets, it was brief. But it referred to the issue of our time, and pointed to a Public Policy Institute of California study showing that 25 percent of California’s children 5 and younger live in poverty.

We aren’t big on resolutions, but we do have certain wishes for the 2018 election campaign. Gov. Jerry Brown has shown a successful governor must not overspend or over-promise. Clearly, there are limits what a state can do. But our hope is that voters will select candidates who hold realistic views that will most help people in need.

Poverty is especially persistent in much of the Central Valley. We urge voters here to pay attention to candidates’ prescriptions for addressing inequality. That must include improving public education and ensuring health care. Seek specifics.

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How, for example, would candidates combat teen pregnancy? As detailed in powerful stories by The Fresno Bee’s Mackenzie Mays, teen pregnancy rates are far higher in the San Joaquin Valley than in the rest of the state.

California is home to the Silicon Valley and great universities. And yet we are one of three states that require only two years of math instruction for high school graduation, the Public Policy Institute of California recently noted. It also pointed out that 42 states require three years of science for high school diplomas. California requires only two years.

Voters should insist on solutions for affordable housing, ways to deal with our humanitarian crisis, homelessness, and a renewed commitment to helping severely mentally ill people.

The next governor also must confront the public health implications of commercial marijuana sales, and restrict entrepreneurs’ efforts to market the drug to promote its wider use.

Polls show Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Villaraigosa are front-runners for governor, though state Treasurer John Chiang and Delaine Eastin, a former superintendent of public instruction, shouldn’t be counted out.

In 2018, large numbers of women will be running for office, and Latinos should turn out in unprecedented numbers, not just because President Donald Trump has insulted them in a variety of ways. Latinos will be top-tier candidates for several high-profile offices beyond governor: Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León is challenging U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein; and state Sen. Ed Hernandez is running for lieutenant governor. Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla also will be on the ballot.

California has produced many Republican governors: Earl Warren, Ronald Reagan, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Under California’s top-two system, however, it’s not clear that Republicans can make it into the general election for statewide offices in 2018. It may be that the GOP will be relegated to holding select legislative and congressional districts.

One-party domination is not good. But Republican voter registration is 25.9 percent, far below the Democrats’ 44.8 percent, and barely above the 24.5 percent of the electorate who are no-party preference voters. We await the arrival of a well-funded, policy-driven independent, who will be a serious contender for statewide office. That day is nearing.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, hopes to goose GOP turnout with an initiative to repeal the 12-cent per gallon gasoline tax increase levied in 2017 to fund road repairs. If it qualifies for the November ballot, the measure will be tough to beat. But the policy would be wrong. Without funding, California’s roads would continue to deteriorate.

Voters often select the least bad alternative. In 2018, however, serious candidates are running for important offices. We resolve to pay close attention to what they do and don’t promise, and learn more about what they’ve done. We encourage you, who will determine the outcome, to become more deeply engaged.