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Bustamante, Camejo in Spotlight at Forum

Other major candidates decline invitations to address faith-based group fighting poverty.

September 22, 2003|Michael Finnegan | Times Staff Writer

SAN JOSE — Gubernatorial candidates Cruz Bustamante and Peter Camejo each vowed Sunday to expand public health care, housing and education programs, but offered few details on the potential cost to taxpayers.

At a candidates forum in a sweltering high school gymnasium here, Lt. Gov. Bustamante, a Democrat, recalled that during his youth in the Central Valley, public schools provided ample music, drama and after-school programs -- even in "a little tiny town out in the middle of nowhere."

"That's the way education should be for every single child in California," he said. "We need to fully fund education."

Bustamante also voiced support for a bill passed by the Legislature that would require many employers to provide health insurance to workers.

"Everyone deserves health care," he said.

Bustamante and Camejo, a Green Party candidate, were warmly received by a crowd of some 2,000 people from around the state. The forum was sponsored by the Pacific Institute for Community Organizations, a statewide network of faith-based groups that back programs to fight poverty.

Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, and the other leading candidates vying to replace him in the Oct. 7 recall election -- actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Thousand Oaks state Sen. Tom McClintock, both Republicans, and independent Arianna Huffington -- declined invitations.

Camejo reiterated his call for raising taxes on the wealthy and providing health coverage for the millions of Californians who do not already have it.

"We should be imitating Canada or France or Switzerland or Italy," he said.

Camejo also promised "substantial" new public spending to build housing. He called the high cost of housing "one of the most embarrassing, unnecessary crises California faces."

He called public school conditions "a scandal," and demanded more spending on education but did not say how much.

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