Politics & Government

California GOP governor hopefuls vie for 'most conservative' title

COSTA MESA — In the first gubernatorial debate of the Republican primary, underdog candidate Steve Poizner sought Monday to establish himself as the true conservative of the race while rival Meg Whitman offered more moderate proposals on core GOP issues such as illegal immigration and the state's climate change law.

Poizner, the state's insurance commissioner, declared his candidacy "a game-changer" for California and pushed sweeping proposals such as cutting all illegal immigrants from state-funded public services.

Whitman proposed more measured fixes such as prohibiting so-called sanctuary cities that don't report illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

She also took a softer stand on AB 32, which requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions, by calling for a one-year moratorium on its implementation. Poizner said he supported an initiative on the November ballot that would suspend the legislation until the state unemployment rate falls by more than half.

"I believe California is headed in completely the wrong direction," Poizner said at the debate, hosted by moderate Republican group New Majority California at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. "I want to be governor so we can take California in a completely different direction."

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