Jewish Journal: The latest polls show you trailing your more well-known opponents, including Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa. Does that concern you?
John Chiang: It does not. The fact that millions of dollars of attack [ads] have been waged against us by Gavin Newsom shows that we are moving up in the polls. I think we’re making strong progress.
JJ: You’ve also launched attacks on your opponents. Do you feel this detracts from campaigning, when most voters just want to know what your policies are?
JC: It’s important to provide your vision for California and also to point out a clear picture of what people say and what people do. That’s an important aspect of campaigns and it’s part of our democracy. We’re happy to engage in putting up my record of fiscal responsibility and getting California through difficult times.
JJ: What is the first thing you would tackle if elected?
JC: Education. Education is the key to the American dream. It’s why my parents came to this country. They made extraordinary sacrifices. But America has and always will be the most aspirational place on earth, and it starts with education. We have too many communities in the state of California where kids aren’t getting the best opportunities, and I want to close that gap. I want to make sure that kids can grow up and pursue their dreams, and that can only be possible in a global economy if they get a very wide, very deep and diverse education.
JJ: You’re a proponent of single-payer health care. How would you implement that?
JC: That’s a good mountain to climb. I’m the candidate who has a history of overcoming legal, logistical and financial hurdles. I helped create Secure Choice [now CalSavers Board] — a retirement savings plan. I would take that history and experience of successfully moving tough projects and bring it along with single-payer by trying to move it through a Trump administration, trying to overcome financial challenges and trying to overcome the legal challenges.
JJ: How would you deal with the ever-increasing problems associated with the high-speed rail project?
JC: Part of that contemplation is making sure you go out and find private-sector funding. I’m the one who has a record of reaching out and meeting and trying to introduce private-sector investors to the high-speed rail authority. I’d lead international delegations, which I think are important. We celebrated recently that California became the world’s fifth largest economy. Part of that is understanding international investment, international trade and extraordinary diversity, whether it comes from Israel, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, Africa. There are massive investors all across the globe. We’re going to have to go out, reach out to them, and package this in a manner that creates incentives in the private-sector to invest in high-speed rail.
JJ: How important would it be to become the first Asian-American governor?
JC: This is just evidence of the brilliance of America. Despite all the high hurdles and the friction, America is a country that welcomes immigrants. If elected, I would just continue the promise of what America is about. When people come from other countries, they struggle, overcome ugly bigotry and discrimination, and yet their child has an opportunity to wake up every morning like I do, to do what I am passionate about and serving others to make sure that every Californian can live in a place that gives them the best opportunities to succeed, which is the American dream.
JJ: Would you continue current Gov. Jerry Brown’s stance to stand up to the Trump administration and Republican leadership in areas where Californians don’t agree with the current administration’s agenda?
JC: If you ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I am a person of goodwill who acts responsibly in trying to fight for Californian values. I will work with the administration and President Trump to fight for who Californians are; fight for building an economic ladder that is open to all; fight for social inclusion. But I will stand up to President Trump when he acts contrary to what’s in the best interest of California, and I’ve had to do so in a number of areas.
I will continue the battle if the president tries to act irresponsibly on climate change. Climate change has a dramatic impact on California’s economic prosperity, of physical health from sea level rise to clean air, to environmental justice issues. That’s why, as a member of the State Lands Commission, I voted against offshore drilling.
On gun reform, we can’t continue to have our kids getting shot and losing their lives in school. Kids are our most precious resource. We have to make sure they’re safe. If it requires leadership that challenges the gun lobby and the NRA, then so be it.
On health care, we want everybody to get accessible, affordable health care. When President Trump and the Republican Congress started action against Obamacare, as the state’s treasurer I came up with the idea of emergency lifeline grants to try and keep the doors open for California’s 1,200 community clinics. We don’t want Californians to have to make decisions between paying rent or taking care of a sick child.
I will fight for Californians. That’s a fundamental difference between me and the other [candidates]. While others are tweeting or making bold statements, we need leaders who are taking real action.
JJ: In light of the #MeToo movement, what would you do to ensure your administration has a transparent reporting system?
JC: This issue has fallen off the map in this campaign. It means we’re not listening and seeing people. You need leadership so that victims and survivors know that there is somebody they can trust. What separates me from the others in this race is I see them, I hear them, and I am the only candidate who has a specific plan to stop sexual harassment. If that plan is not in place on Day One [of my tenure], I will push to ensure that it is. It’s tragic that this conversation has been lost over the past few months.