‘Overreach.’ Republican recall candidates say they wouldn’t require masks in California schools

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Four Republicans hoping to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in the upcoming recall election pushed back Wednesday on advice from the Centers for Disease Control that recommends masks in schools and said they oppose requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for anyone in California.

During the 90-minute debate hosted by FOX 11 in Los Angeles, Republican hopefuls John Cox, Kevin Faulconer, Kevin Kiley and Doug Ose expounded on their plans for California if elected on Sept. 14. All said that requiring masks indoors in schools, as Gov. Gavin Newsom has done, is an overreach.

Early last month, California said it would require students to wear masks upon returning to classrooms this fall, and directed schools to send home pupils who don’t comply. The state later said local districts can decide for themselves how to handle non-compliant students. The CDC last week, citing the transmissibility of the delta variant, recommended masks for unvaccinated students and staff in schools.

The Democratic governor has also required state workers and health workers to get vaccines or regular testing.

“I think the government is engaged in a significant overreach of authority in terms of imposing these things,” said Ose, a former three-term congressman, said during the debate. “I happen to have great faith in the ability of people to make decisions of their own, to assess the risk they face, whether it’s for their child in school or their workplace or where they shop.”

Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego, encouraged everyone to get vaccinated. He also said he strongly opposes mask mandates in public schools. Asked whether he would ban mask mandates in the Golden State, as some Republican governors have done, he said “it’s something I would look into doing.”

Kiley, who represents Rocklin in the state Assembly and who previously served in Teach for America, said he 100% opposes a mask mandate in California, and that parents should determine what is best for their child. He said California’s overly-restrict COVID-19 measures have harmed the state’s students.

“Our kids have fared worse here than anywhere,” he said.

Cox, a 2018 gubernatorial candidate and longtime businessman, said he doesn’t believe in mandates for vaccines or masking, and said California should try to follow the example of Florida, which has operated with fewer restrictions during the pandemic.

“I think (Newsom’s) COVID management was an absolute disaster,” Cox said. “It resulted in far more danger and far more problems.”

Cox, who had the virus in early 2020, said he believes people who already contracted COVID-19 have antibodies and don’t need to get vaccinated.

“This disease is an awful one I had it very early on, And it’s, it’s not something you want to have but it’s 99.9% survivable by people who are in decent health who aren’t elderly,” he said.

The World Health Organization recommends everyone, including those who were previously infected, receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as it acts as a booster to that strengthens the body’s immune response. According to the Associated Press, about 98.2% of known COVID-19 patients in the U.S. survive, but each individual’s chance of dying from the virus will vary depending on their age, whether they have an underlying health condition and whether they are vaccinated.

If the recall of Newsom is successful, one of the 46 candidates on the ballot would be elected to replace him and serve out the remainder of his term, which would come down to about one year in office.

All four Republican candidates said at the debate that they are confident in their ability to work within the bounds of a Democrat-dominated state government to effect change around housing, homelessness, crime and education.

The candidates spent little time critiquing one another, aiming instead for the incumbent governor.

Ose knocked Newsom for his failure to address problems with the unemployment system that were laid out in a recent audit. The Employment Development Department has struggled throughout the pandemic with record-high call volumes and millions in fraudulent claims.

Ose said the mismanagement has prevent Californians from receiving the help they need.

“Let’s figure out, by going and looking at other entities that have large employee pools or large sales volumes, how do they prevent fraud? And let’s incorporate those measures into the EDD process,” Ose said.

“And secondarily, just answer the damn phone.”

Candidates also said they’d look for ways to roll back certain measures they see as being “soft on crime,” such as Proposition 47, which reclassified certain theft and drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Kiley said he would do away with immigration policies like California’s 2017 sanctuary state law, which prevents local law enforcement officials from assisting immigration enforcement agencies in detaining and transferring the custody of immigrants.

Kiley also said California has done “way too much” in expanding benefits for undocumented immigrants, including the recent expansion of Medicaid for those over age 50.

Cox said he’s concerned about drugs and human trafficking happening at the border, and said the state needs a more complete border wall.

“We absolutely need to build a wall along our southern border,” Cox said. “We don’t have these problems in Canada, because they can enforce their law, they’re not corrupt, but unfortunately we have problems with our neighbor to the south.”

Notably absent from the debate was Larry Elder, the longtime radio talk show host and leading Republican candidate in the recall. The moderators also invited Newsom and Republican candidate Caitlyn Jenner, but they did not attend.

The recall election will be held Sept. 14, but counties will start sending out mail ballots on Aug. 16.

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