Capitol Alert

Here's what the candidates for California governor got wrong in last night's debate

Candidates for California governor running to succeed Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday participated in their last major debate before the June 5 primary election at the California Theater in San Jose. The Sacramento Bee fact-checked their statements.

Claim: Democrat and frontrunner Gavin Newsom said Tuesday night that as mayor of San Francisco, the city's homeless street population fell. "We were successful reducing our street population 40 percent. We got 12,000 people off the street," in part through housing and supportive services, Newsom said.

Reality: While it's true that "street homeless" — those not living in shelters — fell under his watch, overall homelessness grew slightly.

In his first term as mayor of San Francisco in 2005, an estimated 6,248 people were homeless in the city. In January 2011, the month he took office as lieutenant governor, about 6,455 homeless people were identified in the city’s biennial count.

Policies in place during his tenure did place more than 11,000 homeless people in supportive housing, according to a 2014 city analysis. About 8,000 were sent out of the city, reunited with family members or other close connections.

Newsom is correct that San Francisco's "street" population — those not living in shelters — fell 40 percent. That drop was from 2002, before Newsom took office, through 2009.

Claim: Republican businessman John Cox repeatedly blamed California Democrats for creating California's housing crisis. "We have the highest cost of housing ... the politicians are to blame."

Reality: Democrats currently control all statewide constitutional offices and both houses of the Legislature, but the problem is bigger than California lawmakers — past and present. Housing experts trace the problem back to the 1970s, when residents worried about the effects of growth in their neighborhoods increasingly opposed new housing construction.

The problem has exploded after the recession, due to a growing population and local resistance to new construction. The dearth of housing is also tied to challenges in the private market, including shrinking federal tax incentives and high labor and construction costs.

Claim: Cox attacked his Republican rival, Assemblyman Travis Allen, for voting in favor of a state law that allows undocumented immigrants to get a California driver's license.

Reality: Allen voted against the 2013 bill creating the undocumented driver's license law, Assembly Bill 60, when it passed the Assembly, according to legislative records. When the bill returned to the Assembly for a final vote on Senate amendments, Allen did not vote.

Claim: Newsom said California could, in theory, afford a taxpayer-financed single-payer health care system with current health care spending, pegged at roughly $400 billion.

Reality: California's total health care spending is, in fact, about $400 billion per year, according to a March analysis by The Sacramento Bee. But creating such a system would require major tax increases, depending on how the plan is structured. Without proper mechanisms to control rising health care spending, lawmakers would be forced to raise taxes to pay for the system.

Claim: Cox and Allen both say California's so-called "sanctuary state" law is unconstitutional.

Reality: The courts have not settled the matter. The Trump administration is suing California over its sanctuary state law. Multiple lawsuits, including one brought by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, are challenging the federal government's attack on sanctuary protections for undocumented immigrants.

Claim: Cox repeatedly painted himself as the non-politician in the crowd.

Reality: Cox has run unsuccessfully for multiple elected offices, including twice for Congress in Illinois, for the Republican nomination for president and for Cook County Recorder of Deeds.

Editor's Note: This post was updated at 3:15 p.m. May 9, 2018 to distinguish between Newsom's claim of reducing "street homeless" and the overall homeless population.

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