Six candidates vying to become the next Governor of California faced off for the first time during a town hall meeting at the University of Southern California (USC). During the 90-minute discussion, themed Empowering California: A Local Perspective, candidates Travis Allen, John Chiang, John Cox, Delaine Eastin, Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa answered questions about homelessness, immigration, education, criminal justice, how they would work with the Trump administration, and other topics.
The Empowerment Congress, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC hosted the event at USC’s Bovard Auditorium, which drew an audience of almost 1,500 people. Many also listened to the live stream on KABC7 and the live broadcast on 89.3 KPCC.
Los Angeles, CA – JAN 13: 26th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit | Empowering California: A Local Perspective | Gubernatorial Town Hall (Pool Photo by Leroy Hamilton)
Opening the discussion, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “With a plethora of local challenges across the state, ranging from affordable housing crises to threats to a range of civil liberties, it is critical that we elect an individual to lead the state of California who understands the opportunities, challenges, responsibilities and privileges associated with representing the most populous and diverse state in the nation.”
“Governor Jerry Brown released a record $132-billion proposed budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, and it is our collective responsibility to seek out the individual who can best balance that budget, answer the tough questions, and demonstrate resilience in the face of crisis,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “That’s because, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”
Robert Shrum, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, said, “There is no better way to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday than a spirited, honest and respectful face-to-face town hall involving the candidates for governor, one of whom will lead this state into the future.”
“The core of our democracy is civic engagement,” Empowerment Congress coordinator Cassandra Chase said. “The gubernatorial town hall provided an opportunity for community members to ask questions of the candidates on issues that are important to them. Our community is constantly engaged and takes the lead on visioning the California we deserve.”
ABC7 Eyewitness News anchor Marc Brown served as moderator. KPCC senior political reporter Mary Plummer also sat on the panel, focusing on concerns raised by voters.
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas founded the Empowerment Congress 26 years ago, when he was a member of the Los Angeles City Council. It is widely considered a national model of civic engagement, built on the core principles of participatory democracy, reciprocal accountability and intentional civility. It holds an annual summit during the national observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday to address issues of importance within local communities.
The mission of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC is to motivate students to become active in the world of politics, and to encourage public officials to participate in the daily life at USC.
Los Angeles, CA – JAN 13: 26th Annual Empowerment Congress Summit | Empowering California: A Local Perspective | Gubernatorial Town Hall (Pool Photo by Aurelia Ventura)