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What to Expect at DeSantis-Newsom Debate on Thursday Night



Thursday night's Gov. Ron DeSantis vs. Gov. Gavin Newsom debate is likely to churn out some good TV — even if it's short on substance. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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If you don’t already know, political wonks in California, Florida, and maybe a few states in between, will be glued to their screens Thursday night to watch Gov. Gavin Newsom and Gov. Ron Desantis square off in a highly-anticipated Blue vs. Red State debate that’s been brewing since the summer.

Lynn La


Whether you’re genuinely rooting for one of these governors, partaking in some morbid curiosity, or have to tune in because of work obligations (ahem), the 90-minute spectacle is likely to churn out some good TV — albeit how much actual substance it’ll have is unclear.

That’s because both Newsom and DeSantis are not above name-calling and needling one another, besides actually talking about their state’s most glaring issues — crime, education, and more.

But if substance is what you seek, CalMatters has a new explainer on Thursday’s debate. Give it a look and learn more about the vastly different approaches both governors take on policy, as well as to find the answers to questions such as:

  • Cost of living: When it comes to spending on the basics (housing, utilities, food, gas and the like) are Floridians paying less than Californians?
  • Economy: What are the unemployment rates for both states and what variables may impact those numbers in the near future?
  • COVID-19: What were the results in the governors’ opposing policies to the pandemic?
  • Education: Amid culture wars over book bans, diversity and the LGBTQ+ community, which state spends more per student?

Other media outlets have compared the two on a wide range of topics, including how they differ on healthcare, such as abortion and drug addiction, from California Healthline; and a deep dive about their attitudes on free speech (and even their short-lived baseball “careers”) from the Los Angeles Times.

There’s also no dearth of political analysis as to what could result from the face-off. Even if no winner is declared at the end of the night, Thursday’s event will provide good fodder to fire up both party’s bases. The timing is especially notable for DeSantis since he’s campaigning to be the next GOP presidential nominee. While Newsom remains loyal to President Joe Biden, he’s still a potential presidential candidate in 2028 and does not shy away from opportunities to raise his national and international profile.

For more about issues likely to come up during the debate, be sure to check out our explainer.

DeSantis vs. Newsom: The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

Newsom Takes Aim at Illegal ‘Tranq’ Trafficking

Speaking of Newsom, he was busy Tuesday. In an unusual step, he announced he’ll sponsor a bill next year to increase penalties for illegal trafficking of “tranq” — the animal tranquilizer xylazine. It would become a controlled substance but still be available to veterinarians. The governor said it’s part of his push to reduce drug overdose deaths.

  • Newsom, in a statement: “Although California is not yet seeing tranq at the same rates as other parts of the country, this legislation will help the state stay ahead and curb dealers and traffickers, while we work to provide treatment and resources for those struggling with addiction and substance abuse.”

Also Tuesday, the governor named Tomiquia Moss as secretary of the state’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. Since 2019, she has been CEO of the Bay Area nonprofit All Home.

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About the Author

Lynn La is the WhatMatters newsletter writer. Prior to joining CalMatters, she developed thought leadership at an ed-tech company and was a senior editor at CNET. She also covered public health at The Sacramento Bee as a Kaiser media fellow and was an intern reporter at Capitol Weekly. She’s a graduate of UC Davis and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

About CalMatters

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.