Gavin Newsom, John Cox spar in only debate before Election Day

SAN FRANCISCO (KABC) -- Monday was a critical moment in the race to become California's next governor, as the two candidates faced off for their only debate before the elections.

The hour-long public radio debate remained civil, with Republican John Cox and Democrat Gavin Newsom sparring on policy and mostly avoiding personal attacks.

Neither strayed from their well-worn positions, and the debate appeared to do little to change the race in which Newsom is heavily favored.

One of the key issues discussed was how to make housing more affordable in California. The Nov. 6 election comes as the state faces a housing crisis and is drastically behind on building what it needs to house its population of nearly 40 million people.

"We have a desire to take our $85 million affordable housing tax credit, increase it over the next few years to $500 million to leverage more financing for affordable housing," Newsom, California's lieutenant governor, said.

"What you heard from Gavin is more government, more plans to pay out money from government, tax credits, plans for government financing, but if you don't really attack the cost of building - I can build apartments in other states that I operate in for a fourth or a fifth of what they cost to build in California, and the reason is red tape, taxes, lawsuits," Cox said.

Cox stuck with Trump on issues such as ending California's so-called sanctuary state policy and building a wall along the Mexico border. He declined to weigh in on the bitter fight over Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, even as Republicans nationwide are celebrating.

"I'm not going to get in the middle of that. I'm focused on the issues in California," Cox said when asked if he would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh.

Campaign finance records show Newsom leading Cox in fundraising, with $16 million as of last month compared to Cox's $1.7 million.

And polls are differing. Last month's Public Policy Institute of California poll showed Newsom leading by 12 points. A Probolsky Research poll had that lead at just five points.

Cox is a lawyer, accountant and investor from the San Diego area who has never held elected office. He has pledged to reduce taxes and regulations that he says drive up the cost of living in the nation's most populous state.

Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco, is running on his willingness to make bold decisions and his opposition to Trump.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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