Q&A: Republican candidate for governor Brian Dahle on education, criminal justice and bipartisanship

Oct. 3, 2022, 10:35 p.m.

The Daily sat down with Republican gubernatorial nominee Brian Dahle to discuss his agenda and campaign. In November, Dahle faces popular-incumbent Gavin Newsom in the gubernatorial election. With nearly twice as many California voters registered with the Democratic Party as the Republican, and with the last statewide Republican victory being Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2006 re-election, Dahle faces an incredible challenge.

But he hopes to deliver statewide reforms in education, criminal justice and economic opportunity. A Northern California farmer, Dahle served his community on the Larsen County Board of Supervisors for sixteen years before representing California’s First Assembly District from 2012 to 2019. Rising to the position of Republican leader in the assembly, Dahle centered his legislative agenda on economics, energy, education and infrastructure. 

In 2019, Dahle won a special election for the First Senate District seat. He was reelected in 2020 for a full four-year term. He currently serves as vice chair of the Energy, Utility and Communications committee, and he is the November election opponent of Governor Gavin Newsom.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

The Stanford Daily [TSD]: A cornerstone of your agenda is substantial educational reform — particularly school choice and parental oversight of the curriculum. Teachers unions across the nation oppose these measures. How do you plan to contend with this?

Brian Dahle [BD]: I know that the teachers union is very powerful in California. I will say though, that the number one thing I’ve been hearing out on the campaign trail is that parents are very frustrated with our education system. In fact, 50,000 students did not show up for the first day of school in the Los Angeles Unified School District this year. 

I think that we have a lot of bipartisan work we need to do in this area, to make sure that we have good teachers that are paid a living wage and at the same time give a solid education to our children. I think that on the local level, school boards and teachers and folks should work together to get transparency and focus more on reading, writing and arithmetic and not so much on gender and sex education.

TSD: You wrote on your platform that California’s electric grid may not be able to handle millions of new cars. What would you say about Newsom’s recent executive order that by 2035, all new cars and trucks sold in-state must be zero-emission?

BD: Two days after he signed that, he asked you not to charge your car because we had a power shortage due to extreme heat. At the end of the day, we will need 10 power plants the same size as the Diablo nuclear-power plant to supply power for 30 million electrical vehicles in 12 years. 

That is something that I guarantee will not happen in 12 years. We’ve been trying to build a high-speed train since 2008 and we haven’t laid one foot of track. I’m very frustrated that we set these targets and mandate things with no plan in place. 

I will guarantee you that your energy rates will continue to go up. Californians are suffering from inflation, and inflation is driven up mainly by energy costs.

TSD: You promise to appoint a parole board that blocks the early release of prisoners convicted for violent crimes. Will this be a unilateral standard? 

BD: There may be some exceptions to you know, but repeat offenders are going to be kept in. I don’t want to see people in prison. But if there’s no punishment for crime, you have a lot of crime.

This week, there were four murders right here in Sacramento in the span of 12 hours. That is not acceptable. People in California don’t feel like they can go out and walk down the street at night or let their children ride a bicycle. That’s because we have criminals who are not obeying our laws and abusing Californians.

TSD: On the topic of crime, you put great emphasis on illegal drug trafficking. Why?

BD: Number one, we need to stop the flow of fentanyl, which is killing more Californians than COVID did. Number two, we need to make selling illegal drugs for business and profiting off of our children a felony crime.

Also, we have a lot of people who are addicted to drugs and we need a pathway for them to get free from their addiction issues and then get them off the streets. Most of the people on our streets are addicted to drugs and have mental health issues. If we go after drugs, we’ll help our homeless as well.

TSD: California operated as a swing state for a long time, but with the Reagan-Clinton political realignment the California Democratic Party now holds 46.8% of registered voters versus the 23.9% held by Republicans. 52% of independents lean toward the Democratic Party and Governor Newsom has a 52% or 53% approval rating as of recent polls. How do you plan on defeating him?

BD: I think that whether you’re Democrat, Independent or Republican, inflation is making it tough for you to stay in California and provide for your family. Gavin Newsom policies have hurt people by driving up the cost of their gasoline and their energy. 

I want to make sure that Californians have an option. We’ve had decades of one party controlling the legislature and 12 years of Democratic governors. We need balance. If you’re happy with the way California’s going, then stick with what you’re getting. But what I’m hearing is that Californians are struggling. Their schools aren’t good. We don’t have water nor an infrastructure that works.

Name one thing Gavin Newsom has fixed since he’s been in office.

TSD: If you ascend to the governor’s mansion, the majority of the statewide races as well as the legislatures will likely remain Democratic. How much of your agenda will you pursue through executive order and how much do you think you will pursue through these agencies and submitting proposals to the legislature?

BD: The talk in the capital from some Democrats is “Brian, I’ll have more time in the governor’s office if you’re elected governor then I have with Gavin Newsom.”

I’ve worked across the aisle to get things done, and I will have every single legislator from both parties in my office as governor and talk about the priorities. We will find the things we agree on and tackle those to start out with. And the things that we disagree on, we’ll talk about in a direction that’s positive.

TSD: What is your greatest critique of Governor Newsom?

BD: My greatest critique is that Gavin Newsom is about Gavin Newsom. I really don’t think his heart is in California. I think that he is aspiring to some other position.

We’ve seen him running for president even though he says he’s not. I don’t like that. I want to fix the problems in California. I want a future for my children, your children and all Californians. That’s why I’m running for Governor of the state of California.

Jed Ngalande '23 is the politics and government beat reporter for The Daily's news section. Contact him at news 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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