From left, Republicans John Cox, Kevin Faulconer, Caitlyn Jenner and Doug Ose are seen as the strongest candidates in the recall election.

Caitlyn Jenner would end property taxes for Californians over 65. Doug Ose would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls. Kevin Faulconer would seize firearms from 23,000 state felons. And John Cox would make California the “Saudi Arabia of the West.”

The leading Republican candidates for governor offered these and other ideas while blasting Gov. Gavin Newsom in separate replies to questions from Times of San Diego.

In the first such virtual Q&A of the recall election, the four mostly agreed on issues.

They also each confirmed being vaccinated against COVID-19, with former San Diego Mayor Faulconer, 54, saying he received the Johnson & Johnson shot at Operation Collaboration at Cuyamaca College and Olympic champ Jenner, 71, responding: “After consulting with my doctor, I have been fully vaccinated, and I encourage all California residents to do the same.”

But they split down the middle on abortion, with former Congressman Ose and Rancho Santa Fe businessman Cox, both 65, declaring themselves pro-life and Faulconer and Jenner pronouncing themselves pro-choice.

All four back the Second Amendment, but with varying degrees of support for California’s tough firearms laws.

In fact, Ose advised “everybody” to arm themselves, “get the training you need, and shoot back because the police will never get there in time if you’re in a situation or somebody comes to your business or your home and tries to do you harm.”

At least 18 Republicans have filed for the election — which first asks whether Newsom should be recalled and second who should replace him if ousted.

The exact date has yet to be set. But CalMatters reported Monday that the range of probable dates is “shaping up as a Tuesday between mid-September and early November — with signs pointing to the likelihood of an election sooner rather than later.”

According to an average of polls tracked by Real Clear Politics, Newsom appears safe. Only 37.5% of those surveyed want the Democrat removed from office, with 48.5% saying they’d vote no on recall.

On May 11, Mark DiCamillo of the Berkeley IGS Poll wrote that none of the four prominent Republicans in the replacement election were generating much support.

The leading candidates were Faulconer and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Cox (22% each), Ose (14%) and Jenner (6%) — although the transgender activist has gotten a boost from national attention and recent cable-TV appearances.

These responses were received between June 1 (Faulconer) and June 7 (Jenner and Cox). Ose’s campaign sent responses June 6.

TIMES OF SAN DIEGO: Why would you be better as California governor than any of your announced Republican rivals?

San Diego business man John Cox campaigns with a 1,000-pound Kodiak bear.
John Cox showed off Tag the bear at a Shelter Island stop in May, calling himself the Beast in contrast to Gavin Newsom’s Beauty. Photo by Chris Stone

COX: As a CPA and successful businessman, I have a proven track record of producing results. The politicians have run California for decades, and we’ve seen the cost of living explode, homelessness skyrocket, energy blackouts, rampant fires and water shortages. Simply put, we need a fresh perspective in the governor’s office and not more politicians. I’ll make California affordable and livable again for the average person.

FAULCONER: I have the experience to lead on Day One, from my time leading the second-largest city in California and the eighth-largest in the country. That’s what I did for two terms as mayor of San Diego — manage and run the eighth-largest city in the country. I know how to get things done for our communities.

We repaired half of the roads in San Diego without raising taxes. We pushed forward transformative reforms on housing to make it easier and cheaper to build the homes we need. We reduced homelessness and got tent encampments off the streets by approaching this issue with compassion and persistence. We kept us one of the safest big cities in the United States.

These are just some of the issues I know how to tackle, and they are all important everywhere in California, and I’m the only candidate in the race that has delivered results in each and every one of these instances. I’m prepared to do the same for California.

JENNER: I’m running against Gavin Newsom and his corrupt, hypocritical policies. I think that is why everyone else is running, too, so I don’t see other candidates as rivals. And while I think I’m the strongest candidate, the truth is most of the people running would do a better job than Gavin Newsom.

Caitlyn Jenner calls herself a compassionate disruptor. Photo by Danny Moloshok via Reuters

I am a thoughtful, compassionate disruptor and that is exactly what California needs right now. Californians are sick and tired of Sacramento politicians campaigning on promises and governing in dishonesty. This recall election is a binary choice between more of the same insider politics that closed our businesses, stolen a year of in-person education from our children, and driven Californians to other more friendly states versus someone who will take on the status quo to actually turn this California nightmare back into the California Dream.

OSE: The difference is that I bring experience to the table, and a track record of independent and innovative thinking and problem-solving. I actually care deeply about whether or not California’s problems get solved. I’m not going to put up with the bologna that passes for political correctness – we are going to get something done. We are here to do things, not just talk about them. Let’s get on with it!

How would you represent the interests of all Californians — and not just those who made the recall election possible?

COX: A governor is governor for the entire state – not just those who elected him or her. That’s one of the major problems with Gavin Newsom. He’s governed for the special interests while closing small businesses and causing millions of Californians to lose their jobs. As a businessman, I know that all Californians are like my customers. I serve them all.

FAULCONER: I’ll be a governor for all of California. This recall was made possible by Democrats, Republicans and Independents who banded together because this Gavin Newsom simply is not delivering on the basics. He failed on school reopenings, instead deferring to his powerful allies. He is unable to take real action to fix the state’s unemployment woes, losing nearly $30 billion in taxpayer dollars to fraud while keeping desperate Californians waiting for their unemployment payments.

And he failed to consistently follow the science throughout the pandemic, frequently scrambling to change his own rules going against what the experts advised. Just as I built a coalition to win in San Diego, a city where political party registration mirrors that of the state as a whole, I will do the same leading with common sense from Sacramento.

JENNER: Gavin Newsom has one constituency — special interest groups. Politics nowadays are too tribal. I’m not concerned about whether people have a D or R next to their name or where a good idea comes from. I care about what we can do together to move the state forward.

In Gavin Newsom’s case, he’s holding everyone except special interests back.

I would be governor to all Californians, and I’m going to work hard to change the Republican Party to be more inclusive. They have been losing for too long in California because they don’t recruit enough good, diverse candidates – it’s time for that to change. I’m the poster child for change.

I support personal freedoms and small, transparent, accountable government. I also support being more inclusive to all lifestyles, helping the helpless, and protecting our environment in ways that don’t lead to rolling blackouts and wildfires.

We’ve also had one-party rule in Sacramento for a very long time and the lack of different perspectives and outside ideas has dragged our state down. We don’t have to be forced into ideological tribes; we don’t have to hate each other, and we don’t have to put up with Gavin Newsom’s corrupt hypocrisy.

OSE: First of all, let’s put one fallacy to bed. The people who signed the petitions are very dissatisfied with the way things are going, and so am I. I will represent all people. I will meet with anybody, anytime who’s interested in making things better. I don’t care what party you’re in. I don’t care what your gender is. I don’t care what race you are, or what your sexual orientation is. All I care about is whether or not we can sit down and work together and get something done.

Had you been governor in March 2020, what would you have done to protect public health against the novel coronavirus?

COX: The complete and total shutdown of our state was Draconian and is something many Californians will never recover from. As governor, I’d follow the science and balance the needs of students, workers and small businesses so they can learn and succeed. Any rules implemented, I would have followed myself. I never would have celebrated a lobbyist’s birthday dinner at The French Laundry, flaunting the very rules that were created.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, finishing his final term, watched San Diego results at the U.S. Grant Hotel. Photo by Chris Stone
Former Mayor Kevin Faulconer touts his experience in San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

FAULCONER: I’m the only candidate in the race who was in elected office when the pandemic hit. I worked to ensure we protected both lives and livelihoods, fighting this pandemic with common sense solutions. I would have been more transparent than Gavin Newsom about the data the state was receiving, explained why the decisions being made were being made, and ensured that consistent public health instructions were provided to the public instead of confusing and conflicting advice.

I would have provided more support for small businesses as they were being shut down just as we did in San Diego, where we rushed to establish a small business relief fund that helped people stay afloat And just as I did as mayor, I would have helped businesses to expand outdoors, working with the Legislature to remove the necessary red tape to make it happen, especially after the experts made clear that being outdoors was much, much safer.

This would have helped to protect people from the virus, while keeping businesses afloat and giving employees the ability to put food on the table.

JENNER: I can’t think of a single governor that has mismanaged the pandemic worse than Gavin Newsom. I’m not saying that because I’m running to replace him. I’m running to replace him because he represents all that is wrong in American politics.

Newsom is the epitome of hypocrisy — dining at The French Laundry with his special interest friends while he shut us down and ordered us to stay home. He personally chose the winners and losers of the pandemic – his special interest friends won while Californians that didn’t give him campaign cash lost.

Small businesses closed, large businesses are leaving, people are losing jobs and the saddest part of all is an entire generation of children have been robbed of a year of education because Gavin Newsom chose the teachers union and his political future over the future of nearly 6 million California children.

I would have balanced the safety of our residents with the economic impact of a shutdown. States like Texas and Florida did it well, but it is important that we not look at pandemic management as partisan or even ideological. Those states that have done it well tend to have governors that made balanced decisions based upon science rather than who wrote them the biggest campaign check.

I would have opened schools early and put the teachers union on notice that we’ll work with teachers to ensure a safe environment, but we won’t let them harm our children’s future.

Now Newsom is reneging on his promise to lift the state of emergency that would have helped people get back to work, kids get back to school and businesses finally reopen. It looks like California won’t reopen until voters send Gavin Newsom home.

OSE: First and foremost, the proper response to the virus was to take input from a much broader section of advisers than what Newsom ended up doing. Newsom‘s approach to rely on very few advisers with limited experience or concentrated experience in singular areas led to the disaster of policy that treated us all with a broad brush.

Schools could’ve been open – the private schools showed us the protocols. Private business could’ve been open – the same protocols we used in private schools could’ve been used in private business. This is the difference between what Newsom did and what I would’ve done. I would’ve used a much broader pool of advisers to achieve a much better and more comprehensive resolution.

Despite disagreements over the size of California’s budget surplus — Newsom’s claim of $76 billion vs. the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimate of $38 billion — how would you spend this extra money?

COX: I’d remember first of all that the money isn’t the government’s — it belongs to the people. We need to dramatically slash taxes in California. We also need to make investments in energy and water infrastructure, so we don’t have blackouts and water shortages.

FAULCONER: Providing lasting tax relief to Californians should be the top priority, not one-time checks offered by the Newsom administration. We’re coming out of a pandemic that has forced families to decide which bills to pay for while putting food on the table. My proposal for the largest middle-class tax cut in the state’s history could provide families up to 8 months’ worth of utility bills, or 8 months’ worth of groceries or even 92 tanks of gas. It’s the lasting relief we need to make California affordable.

JENNER: Who says we must spend it? This surplus is temporary and we have difficult days ahead, unfunded liabilities and far too many Californians unemployed.

Gavin Newsom continues to use taxpayer money to curry favor with voters, trying to buy his way through this election with your money, but that isn’t a fair or appropriate use of tax dollars.

We need to evaluate every dollar spent by our state government and assess whether it is providing the return on investment that our people should demand. We need to invest in long-term wildfire prevention and a more modern power grid. We need to fix our aging infrastructure, tackle serious homelessness and affordable housing issues and make sure we help our children get back the education Gavin Newsom and his special interest friends robbed them of.

That all has to come from a re-prioritization of spending and a change in how we do business. The status quo in Sacramento will never evaluate themselves so California needs an outsider.

OSE: This is so basic. Newsom is proposing to spend this money on transitory benefits to people. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fix infrastructure needs or pension shortfalls or things like that. We do not need to be spending this money on stuff that we cannot afford to sustain next year.

If the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, upending Roe V. Wade, should California join other states in limiting access to abortions?

COX: I’m pro-life and was raised by my mom. I believe we should do everything we can to uphold the value of life.

FAULCONER: I support a woman’s right to choose, but respect those who have a different opinion. This is a difficult choice for any woman. And I think most Californians agree that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. I know many have strong feelings about this, and that is a debate that should happen in the courts.

I am not going to be an activist on the issue or take additional steps to force my opinion on people who disagree due to deeply held convictions. My campaign is focused on fixing the urgent challenges in California — problems Gavin Newsom has made worse.

JENNER: I am pro-choice. I cannot imagine any scenario in which the Democrat majorities in the California Legislature would further restrict abortion.

Doug Ose, a three-term former member of Congress, is a lifelong Sacramento resident.
Doug Ose, who served three terms in Congress, is a lifelong Sacramento resident. Photo via campaign

OSE: I am pro-life. While I was in Congress, I voted to ban partial birth abortions. I also voted to increase the child tax credits, and I wanted to increase the ability of foster parents to act in the best interest of the child. I worked to make it more affordable to have children than it had been in the past. I’m the only one in this race who has accomplished anything in this area. I also supported the Hyde Amendment.

Should California adopt “voting integrity” laws like those adopted or near adoption in Georgia, Florida and Texas? If so, what California voting rules should be changed? Does California have any problem with fraudulent voting? If yes, please specify.

COX: Voters in California are focused on the problems created by Gavin Newsom’s failed leadership. Kids not learning. Businesses closed. Millions unemployed. Wildfires and energy blackouts throughout the summer. Those are the issues I’d spend my time on.

FAULCONER: Election integrity should be a top priority. Californians deserve to know and have trust in the system we have in place. I believe in making it easier for every Californian to have the opportunity to vote and support current options in California like mail-in ballots that have long been utilized to provide options to voters.

JENNER: I believe it should be easy to vote and impossible to cheat. One fraudulent vote is too many and we need to take steps to make sure that every eligible voter can exercise their right to vote but that no one can cheat the system. Ballot harvesting, for example, has proven to enable cheating from people from both sides, so I will continue to vocally oppose measures that diminish the integrity of the system and support measures to make it easy and secure for eligible, registered voters.

OSE: California voting rules should be changed. The Constitution clearly says that the states can set their rules for their elections. We need to respect the rights of states to do that because otherwise you might have some other states dictating to California how they have to control or conduct their elections. Let’s stick with the constitutional mandates that are already in place. Let’s make sure voters produce a photo ID when they vote, and let’s use paper ballots that are hand-counted in neighborhood precincts.

Several bills are pending to tighten gun laws, including SB 264 to ban gun shows on state property, AB 1057 to expand the state’s “red flag” law and AB 1223 to impose an excise tax of as much as 11% on the sale of guns and ammunition to fund CalVIP grants. Do you support or oppose these measures? Why or why not?

COX: I believe in the Second Amendment. We should focus our resources on going after criminals and those who would break the law.

FAULCONER: California already has some of the toughest gun restrictions in the nation. My basic principle when it comes to firearms is that law-abiding citizens have the right to own firearms, and that criminals do not. The focus of gun policy should be making sure guns shouldn’t get into the wrong hands. But California had a list of criminals who have firearms which has grown to more than 23,000 people. Despite knowing about this problem for years, the state has failed to seize these illegally owned firearms.

JENNER: I was glad to see the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California strike down Gavin Newsom’s unlawful assault on the Second Amendment. I’m in favor of any legislation that keeps guns away from criminals, terrorists, and gangs, but I do fully support preserving any law-abiding Californian’s ability to own and bear arms.

Gun ownership is a fundamental constitutional right but it cannot be looked at without also recognizing that we have a mental health crisis, illegal weapons in the hands of violent criminals and gangs, and a serious border enforcement issue that has led to smuggled guns making their way into the wrong hands.

OSE: California has the toughest set of laws in the entire country relative to guns and gun ownership. The sad facts are that the more laws we pass the more mass casualty events we seem to have. At some point we have to recognize the correlation between the increase in gun laws and the increase in mass casual events. I am for making it possible for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves.

My advice to everybody is to arm yourself, get the training you need, and shoot back because the police will never get there in time if you’re in a situation or somebody comes to your business or your home and tries to do you harm.

Do you support or oppose Rep. Mike Levin’s bill to permanently ban new oil and gas leases off the Southern California coastline? Why or why not? What current state rules would you lift, if in the state’s power?

COX: California could be the Saudi Arabia of the West. And we should be. We should explore oil and gas safely. We should also produce more natural gas. California could be fueling our country. It would make California more prosperous and our country more safe.

FAULCONER: I have long opposed offshore drilling in Southern California. I would maintain current state rules in place that restrict offshore oil and gas wells.

JENNER: Single-party rule has led to a mentality that rewards short-term thinking and leads to one-off policy of the moment legislation. You see the trickle up and trickle down effect of this narrow thought process in some local governments and often in the federal government.

We need to honestly assess our energy crisis. That means looking at exploration side by side with every other kind of energy production and come up with a comprehensive, long-term plan for our state. That plan must begin with a review of our broken power grid and a commitment to an energy plan that is as environmentally friendly as possible without putting our citizens in danger of power outages and the wildfires caused by our broken grid.

Until we can have an honest conversation about our long-term goals, we’re going to end up with one-off legislation that fails to address the systemic problems of an energy crisis that has been too political, too short-sighted and too focused on special interests to truly help our people.

OSE: Levin‘s bill is a stunt. There’s no way offshore oil drilling is going to occur off the coast of California. Levin knows this is a stunt. What we do need to do is make sure that we don’t substitute oil production onshore that is regulated by the strictest environmental standards in the world. What we need to do is make sure that we don’t stop doing that in favor of producing oil in Indonesia or Saudi Arabia that has no environmental safeguards whatsoever.

Do you support or oppose Newsom’s $12 billion plan to boost affordable housing and mental health services and fund other programs to get people off the street? Why or why not? What and how much would you spend to help the homeless? Where should that money go?

COX: Gavin Newsom has been “working” on the homeless problem for decades, and it’s gotten worse and worse and worse. His plans haven’t worked. We will be releasing a bold new plan to address homelessness soon.

FAULCONER: I’m the only candidate who has successfully reduced homelessness in a big California city. In San Diego, we partnered with the county and the state to use funding to help get people off the streets, access to mental health services and helped them get access to the housing they needed.

I will bring these same solutions to Sacramento. This was a successful approach that was paired with the help of law enforcement, specifically, the creation of the Neighborhood Policing Division. These types of investments are crucial to addressing homelessness when combined with creating adequate shelter space and common-sense enforcement against encampments.

JENNER: Government has literally caused most of this problem by overtaxing and over-regulating its people. We need to immediately eliminate regulations that are preventing developers from building affordable, new units and we need to change the tax code to make it less expensive to build new units.

The government should encourage faith-based and nonprofit entities to be part of the solution, rather than make it nearly impossible for them to do what they do best — help people.

And we need to help Californians get back to work so people have a steady paycheck and the confidence to buy a home or sign a new lease.

OSE: Hotels for homeless is a failed program. All it does is take drug addicted and mentally ill persons off the pavement and put them in a hotel room. It doesn’t do anything to solve the underlying problem. We need to stop enabling, excusing and ignoring these drug addiction and mental health issues. It’s time the state of California and its residents face the reality that our laws need to change to allow the authorities to take people into custody and get them treatment when they are unable to make a rational decision for themselves.

Regarding your plan to eliminate state income taxes for individuals making up to $50,000 and households up to $100,000: Why shouldn’t all Californians share the burden of the public costs of policing, transportation and social services? How would you make up any revenue shortfall?

FAULCONER: Right now, California has a budget surplus of tens of billions of dollars over the course of the next three years. The state is also legally obligated to return some of this money to the people because it is exceeding its constitutional spending limit. We need to make California more affordable for the middle class who continue to have a hard time putting food on the table and work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

This tax cut is for them, and it won’t be the last tax cut we pursue when I am elected governor. Californians pay a myriad of taxes like sales taxes, gas taxes and property taxes so everyone does contribute towards public services. Long term, reforms like ending high speed rail, reforming state retiree health care and fixing broken departments like the Employment Development Department and DMV will provide real savings to ensure the budget remains stable.

Do you support or oppose Kevin Faulconer’s plan to eliminate state income taxes for individuals making up to $50,000 and households up to $100,000? Why or why not? And if you favor this, why shouldn’t all Californians share the burden of the public costs of policing, transportation and social services?

COX: Taxes in California are too high. The cost of living is too high. We need to reduce taxes on individuals and small businesses as well as families. I’ll have a plan to dramatically slash taxes in California and make our state affordable again.

JENNER: Californians understand that we must pay some taxes, but we want a fair system and a government that is accountable, transparent and provides a return on the investment.

Nearly every tax we face is higher than the rest of the country and it is one of the main reasons our businesses and people are fleeing to other states. Now Gavin Newsom and his friends want to tax people who finally get fed up and leave.

I’ll veto any new tax and am working with tax experts on a plan to eliminate property tax altogether for all Californians over the age of 65.

OSE: Faulkner‘s plan does not seem to address the fiscal issue of concentrated tax revenues that is at the heart of the state of California’s problems. I am the only person in this race who’s been a tax cutter and a job creator here in California. California’s high taxes have contributed to the exodus that we’re currently experiencing.

Do you support or oppose laws like SB35 that penalize local governments that fail to meet their obligations to increase statewide housing supply? How would you increase affordable housing? What laws would you enact or change?

COX: The first thing we need to do is reform CEQA. It has destroyed development of new housing and has made it enormously expensive. We need to streamline permitting and approvals across the state as well. These changes will dramatically lower the cost of housing and get more housing built sooner, further lowering the cost.

FAULCONER: Instead of penalizing local governments, they should have a seat at the table. I’ll work to make the state a partner with local governments to remove the barriers in place that make it tougher to build the housing that we need to combat the housing crisis we face. That starts by reforming laws like the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) so desperately needed housing projects are not blocked by frivolous litigation.

JENNER: California consistently made it more and more difficult to build anything since the California Environmental Quality Act passed in 1970.

Some economists believe California is missing 3 million housing units so it’s no wonder housing is unaffordable, home ownership is declining and rents are increasing quicker than wages. I worry about the working middle-class families.

Buying a home and building wealth and equity in your property was part of the California Dream. Single-party rule in Sacramento has restricted thought and boxed out those who think differently instead adding new regulations and bureaucracy that have made that dream impossible for most Californians.

It is time to stop running government based on who writes the biggest campaign check or turns out the most voters and start running government efficiently and effectively with an eye on doing a few things well. That includes creating an environment that encourages the development of affordable housing options, explores public-private partnerships, and encourages faith-based groups, nonprofits and traditional developers to build new, affordable homes.

Let’s stop this ridiculous high-speed train to nowhere and spend more time focusing on creating some affordable housing options for the millions of Californians struggling to provide for their family and keep an affordable roof over their head.

OSE: This strikes right at the heart of how come California is virtually unaffordable for many people in the middle class or those just starting out. We have constructed a housing development process that results in structures being unaffordable for folks who live here; that’s why they’re leaving and finding alternative employment and housing in other states.

The best thing we could do is figure out how to expedite the approval of subdivision maps. Within each community, the decision about where those subdivisions should be placed should be left to the local land-use authority. The state of California lacks the expertise to dictate to local land-use authorities where to build new housing.

How should policing change in California to address concerns of people of color that they are unfairly targeted or dealt with more harshly than other groups? Should any money for law enforcement be steered to social services or other ways of dealing with mental issues or domestic conflicts?

COX: The police should be fully funded and supported. We have seen crime go up while some take extreme positions of defunding the police. When a policeman or woman does something wrong, they should be held accountable. But the vast, vast majority of police need and deserve our support. They are heroes serving our community.

FAULCONER: I am strongly opposed to defunding the police. As mayor, I increased the budget. Changes in policing should be centered around accountability and transparency in order to build trust between the communities that police departments serve.

JENNER: There are serious challenges in our judicial system, but defunding the police is not the answer.

We should embrace blind justice, bail based upon severity of the crime and flight risk, and an honest evaluation of how we can work with low-level offenders to keep them out of jail and on a track toward becoming a positive influence on their communities rather than just locking them away. However, we also must always treat victims with the respect and dignity they deserve and lock away those truly violent criminals who wish to do harm to our people.

While we should not defund the police, we should invest resources in recruitment and training so our law enforcement groups, prosecutors, public defenders and judges can bring in the best and brightest, properly vet their hires and train them to keep us safe and secure without prejudice or bias.

OSE: I’m challenging the premise in this question. I think crime is on the rise up and down the state. I think we have made a serious error in electing district attorneys like George Gascón (of Los Angeles) and Chesa Boudin (of San Francisco) who refused to prosecute criminals who are hammering people up and down this state in various communities. it’s time to take a hard look at the direct correlation between lessening the penalty for criminal behavior and the increase in criminal activity.