Gavin Newsom took shots at the Trump administration, saying the country is "desperate for leadership," at a San Luis Obispo meet-and-greet, while also delving into local issues such as housing affordability and higher-education costs.
Newsom, a progressive Democratic candidate currently leading the polls in California's governor race, discussed a wide range of topics Wednesday at the City-County Library in an event sponsored by the SLO County Democratic Party, SLO Progressives, California Nurses Association and Cal Poly Democrats.
Newsom, the current lieutenant governor, said California needs to be a moral leader in a time of "temporary insanity" under President Donald Trump.
Newsom recalled leaders from the 1960s, including Martin Luther King Jr., Sargent Shriver, and Cesar Chavez, saying their courage created positive change through moral vision.
"Right now, we are desperate for leadership," Newsom said. "One thing I've learned about formal authority and moral authority, the more you exercise your formal authority, à la Donald Trump, the less you have of it. The more you exercise your moral authority, the more abundance."
Newsom said that "we have a president who has no moral authority."
The candidate also joked about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' comment that Newsom is "an embarrassment."
"That's a point of pride for me," Newsom said. "I raised a lot of money from that comment."
Newsom said he supports California's sanctuary state law, saying that immigrants who commit crimes still will be held accountable. California has refused the Trump administration's attempts to clamp down on sanctuary cities that limit their cooperation with the national government's effort to enforce immigration law.
Newsom also touted his support for increasing housing stock statewide by about 3.5 million units by 2025 and upping density near transit corridors to better help people afford to live where they work, a goal the city of San Luis Obispo has also supported.
"Affordability is the one word I've heard more than any other word on this campaign trail — affordability as it relates to housing, child care, cost of education and addressing the vexing issues of California being the wealthiest and poorest state in the nation," Newsom said.
He also advocated for a statewide plan to tackle homelessness, which he said is "like nothing we've seen in our lifetime," and increasing spending on mental health resources, particularly at earlier stages in people's lives before their symptoms become severe.
Newsom said it's imperative to reduce carbon emissions through renewable energy, including wave and solar.
He also wants to advance single-payer state health care through Senate Bill 562. Newsom said premiums under the current private system are expected to cumulatively increase by more than 94 percent by 2021.
"We were able to get (single payer health care) done for the city of San Francisco when I was mayor, and that was during a recession," Newsom said. "All of the other candidates (for governor) say they support universal health care, but it can't be done. I support it, and I say it can be done."
Cal Poly students in the audience asked questions about tuition affordability and what he would do to keep costs down and the university well-funded.
"Making an investment in the system, the greater good, is profoundly important as we continue to supplement the work you do here (at Cal Poly)," Newsom said.
Newsom also supports the bill co-authored by state Sen. Bill Monning and Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham that would give San Luis Obispo County the full $85 million settlement for economic mitigation initially proposed by PG&E in its plans to shutter Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant by 2025.
Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor, has 21 percent support compared to 18 percent for former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, both Democrats who are leading the polls, according to a recent Eyewitness News/Southern California News Group survey conducted by Survey USA.
The top two vote-getters in the June 5 primary advance to the November election, regardless of party. Newsom told members of the media that he hopes to face a Republican in the fall.