Gubernatorial Candidate John Cox Can’t Escape Trump’s Shadow in California’s Top Race

by on July 24, 2018 · 0 comments

in California

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Republican John Cox

Gubernatorial candidate John Cox is the latest in a long line of business executives who believe their experiences in the boardroom make then qualified to run the state of California.

To be sure, he was the less extreme of the GOP candidates with name recognition in the June 5 primary. His approach is less bombastic than Travis Allen, but that’s just a matter of rhetoric.

A debate between the two men (and Doug Ose, who dropped out shortly thereafter) in February turned into a bragfest about who supported The Dear Leader the most.

Candidate Cox thinks he can perform the kind of political Jiu-Jitsu needed to flip an electorate where GOP registration has fallen to 25%. Of the $8 million dollars raised for the campaign, $5.5 million has been drawn from the candidate’s own bank accounts. And if he strays from the Trumpian point of view, he can kiss hardcore GOP votes goodbye.

His personal wealth hasn’t stopped Cox from sprinkling his campaign rhetoric with references to “working people.” As in the state’s environmental policies are a ‘burden on’ working people. Or as in his radical plan to create 12,000 local representatives responsible for selecting 120 state legislators to send to Sacramento to “take our government back from the funders, the cronies and the corrupt.”

If he wants to speak on corruption, Cox needs to build distance between his candidacy and the new rules of the political road supported by his party.

From a KPIX5 interview:

“I am going to be reaching out to Democrats, independents, with a real message that this is not about partisanship, this is not about what is going on in Washington,” said Cox. “This is about what is going on in the here and now and the quality of life for people in California. And it has degraded under these politicians.”

Golden State voters have not been kind to those trying to make the leap from the corporate penthouse to the governor’s mansion. Former Northwest Airlines co-chairman Al Checchi, a Democrat who ran for governor in 1998, and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, a Republican who did it in 2010, both failed in convincing voters someone who could run a business was qualified to run the state.

From the Press Enterprise:

Some see parallels between Cox, who reportedly has poured $5 million of his own money into his campaign, and Meg Whitman, another wealthy Republican business executive who ran for governor in 2010 and lost decisively to Democrat Jerry Brown.

“In 2010, Meg Whitman spent $140 million of her own money and got 41 percent of the vote,” said Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College. “In 2014, (GOP gubernatorial candidate) Neel Kashkari spent only $7 million and got 40 percent. If Cox is lucky, his share of the vote will be in that range.”

Cox’s history in electoral politics doesn’t add to the backstory of a successful businessman who’s just interested in fixing what he calls a broken state government. His three runs of office in Illinois (House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, and Cook County Recorder of Deeds) all ended in failure. In 2008, he ran for President for while.

Since moving to Rancho Santa Fe in 2011, he’s backed five statewide initiatives, none of which have garnered enough signatures to make the ballot.

For 2018, Cox has linked his hopes to a ballot measure repealing the state’s most recent gas tax increase. With failed Congressional candidate and talk show host Carl Demaio beating the drum, supporters of the effort turned in just short of a million signatures to qualify the measure, which will appear on general election ballots as Proposition 6.

The measure requires any new transportation fuel taxes or road usage fees in California to be approved by a majority vote of the public. The statute would be retroactive to the beginning of 2017 wiping out Senate Bill 1, passed by the Legislature last year that included both of those elements.

From the Desert Sun:

Whether or not it passes, Republicans hope the ballot measure drums up enthusiasm and increases voter turnout. Disillusionment with tax increases, the logic goes, will benefit down-ticket candidates running for U.S. Congress and the State Legislature, where Democrats now enjoy a super majority in both chambers.

While initial polling shows Proposition 6 has a chance of passing, I’m guessing that’s because the opposition was keeping their powder dry until seeing it qualified for the ballot.

Opponents to Proposition 6 includes a broad range of powerful political entities. And it won’t help supporters with road projects all over the state now sporting signage reminding people about SB1 paying for infrastructure improvements.

From the Sacramento Bee:

The California Chamber of Commerce believes it will hurt business in the state. Labor unions don’t want to lose the construction jobs. Cities and counties are eager for the funding. Even many environmentalists have come around because money was set aside for public transit, pedestrian and bicycling projects. And, of course, Gov. Jerry Brown, who made the road and highway repairs one of his biggest policy priorities of the last few years, will be a leading voice against the initiative. He has already been making appearances at groundbreaking ceremonies with politically vulnerable Democrats who supported SB 1.


In the run-up to the June primary, President Donald Trump endorsed Cox.

At this point in the campaign, only one debate between John Cox and Democrat Gavin Newsom is on the books, slated for CNN on October 1.

The Democratic candidate, who has a substantial lead in early polling, declined offers from Fox News, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Sacramento’s KCRA-TV as part of a five-debate series Cox proposed.

President Trump’s shadow looms large over the California gubernatorial campaign as the Senate takes up the nomination of Brett Cavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The jurist’s positions on Roe v. Wade are cited by Democrats as a key reason to oppose the nomination.

Cox’s extreme stance on abortion (no exceptions for rape or incest) puts him at odds with the 70% of California voters who support the state’s current policies. Newsom will certainly take advantage of that contrast.

The Union-Tribune’s editorial board called out three differences worthy of debate between the Republican and Democratic candidates as the votes rolled in on June 5, namely: housing, education, and criminal justice reform.

While their critique of the candidates’ lack of specificity on these issues is noteworthy, I doubt much in the way of further explanations will happen as the campaigns run their course.

This election is, after all, more about the broader issues of vision, evoked by the actions/inactions of the party in power nationally. We get reminded of that grim reality daily, to the point where staying on top of the news is akin to drinking water from a fire hose.

California, as the state heavily populated by people with the most to lose with any of the Republicans’ dystopian doctrines translated into policy, will be voting to make a statement as much as anything.

I can only hope Newsom invests his time and energy into building the kind of more robust political infrastructure Democrats will need to govern into the future.

Gavin Newsom speaking at a local gathering of Democrats. Photo by Doug Porter

From Doug Porter at SanDiego Free Press.

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