Republican businessman Steve Gaynor talked to students about his run for governor, family and the politics of California in a visit with ASU College Republicans Monday.
Gaynor is positioning himself as a tamer and non-traditional Republican candidate, speaking to students at the event in a far more conversational tone than past visitors.
Gaynor's campaign for governor follows his 2018 defeat in a narrow race for the secretary of state's office. Gaynor could once again come head-to-head with Arizona's Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who also announced her candidacy for governor earlier this year.
Last week, in a forum featuring Gaynor and other Republican governor candidates Matt Salmon and Kari Lake, he stayed more middle of the road than the other two. While Salmon and Lake stuck to their talking points on federal overreach, COVID-19 and the election audit, Gaynor was more manageable in his opinions and positions.
At the College Republicans event, Gaynor spoke extensively about his wife and three children, all three of whom attended ASU. He explained how his family is the main reason behind being in Arizona, and his need to run for governor.
While running his commercial printing businesses in California, Gaynor said he discovered the faults of the state, criticizing high taxes, big government and authoritarian overreach.
In 2018 when he was running for secretary of state, the Arizona Republic reported Gaynor settled a lawsuit that claimed he had underpaid his workers in California, paying more than $134,000.
"Today I just call it the 'Socialist Republic of California,'" Gaynor said. "The government is the union. They tell you everything you can and can't do."
Gaynor described California as a "miserable place to conduct his business," stating he fears Arizona could soon follow in California's footsteps as the state seemingly transitions from a Republican stronghold to a toss up.
"I didn't wanna see Arizona become like California," Gaynor said. "California is a one-party state."
After expressing his personal story, Gaynor opened the floor to ask students what worries them most about the current state of politics in America.
One student expressed concern over "the fact that socialism is becoming more popular with younger generations," while another expressed concern about border security and the Second Amendment.
Gaynor acknowledged the concern over border security, offering a different perspective than other Republican candidates. Gaynor said he wants to approach the border as a matter of law enforcement rather than defaulting to building a wall or a fence.
With his experience in business, Gaynor said it would be financially impossible to build a wall. As governor, he'd rather focus on enforcing border security.
He also expressed his appreciation for the Second Amendment, saying it is important above all else. Gaynor is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and said he is determined to defend the Second Amendment, but said he had mixed feelings about students and faculty carrying weapons on campus.
Another student expressed concern over "indoctrination in the school system," something Gaynor seemed to resonate with. He said while most people focus on K-12, they should instead turn their focus to universities.
"You are on the front lines," Gaynor said. "Don't follow your fear, follow your understanding of the situation. Have courage."
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