Trump-backed John Cox appeals to 'forgotten Californian' in race - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Trump-backed John Cox appeals to 'forgotten Californian' in race for governor

Posted: Updated: Oct 19, 2018 10:26 AM
Republican gubernatorial hopeful John Cox talks to a diner at an In-N-Out burger stand north of Los Angeles. Republican gubernatorial hopeful John Cox talks to a diner at an In-N-Out burger stand north of Los Angeles.
John Cox introduces himself to a voter at the Kern County Fair in Bakersfield, Calif. John Cox introduces himself to a voter at the Kern County Fair in Bakersfield, Calif.
John Cox, Republican candidate for governor of California, meets with workers at Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, Calif. John Cox, Republican candidate for governor of California, meets with workers at Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, Calif.
California gubernatorial candidate John Cox, a Republican, introduces himself to workers at Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, Calif. California gubernatorial candidate John Cox, a Republican, introduces himself to workers at Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, Calif.
John Cox, center, poses for a photo. He is the Republican candidate for governor of California John Cox, center, poses for a photo. He is the Republican candidate for governor of California

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. - On the stump, John Cox posed the question that he hopes he won't have to ask much longer on a campaign swing.

"Have you heard about me yet?" inquired Cox as he talked to a driver lined up to pump gasoline at a Costco station in this hilly suburb north of Los Angeles. "You will," he offered reassuringly.

Cox aims to be California's next governor, a conservative Republican in a state where Democrats hold every major elective office and dominate the legislature. He's closing in the polls and a come-from-behind victory wouldn't be out of the question.

This state, after all, has had its share of formidable GOP chief executives including the "Governator" himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, from 2003 to 2011. And it's an electorate that may be primed for change after two terms of Democratic Gov. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown.

Cox is trying to seize on dissatisfaction with the status quo. He relishes the role of counterpoint to his election adversary, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Change, however, won't come easy. California's electorate has tipped increasingly liberal. The Democratic party holds a 43.8 percent to 24.5 percent registration edge over Republicans, with the rest listing themselves as Independents or members of minor parties.

The Trump mantle

Cox was endorsed by President Donald Trump in the June primary. While he isn't trumpeting his Trump connection in the Nov. 6 general, he isn't running away from it either in a state where Trump isn't popular.

More: Gavin Newsom touts 'California dream' to persuade fractured state he should be governor

He is borrowing a page from the Trump political playbook by portraying himself as the real-estate baron with a touch for the struggling worker, or, as he puts it, "the forgotten Californian."

He said he will be the champion of lower- and middle-income people stressed to the financial limit, trying to open the floodgates to more affordable housing.

"I am going to make California affordable," Cox said. "Families are broken up every day because of the cost of living."

To underscore his working-class appeal, Cox has been campaigning among factory workers. For instance, he took his bright green "Help Is On The Way" tour bus at the plant that makes peppery Sriracha "Rooster" sauce, Huy Fong Foods in industrial Irwindale, California. In a green gingham shirt and blue jeans, he sat at a table with a handful of plant workers to ask them about their lives.

They complained of high living costs and a tight housing market, though they didn't want to move because they say they love the state and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"The thing I am going to improve is the cost of housing," Cox said. He said he'll speed up the permitting process and cut bureaucracy that slows new home construction.

Besides the bus trip, he has been stopping at Department of Motor Vehicles offices to talk about how long folks had to wait in line.

His 2017 tax returns showed an adjusted gross income of $1.86 million, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Cox's wealth has allowed him to partially finance his campaign. His aides report that he contributed $5.6 million of the $12.9 million raised so far.

A devout Catholic, he's against abortion but also the death penalty. As governor, though, he has said he would follow the law when it comes to either issue.

His most important issue is an initiative on the ballot to repeal a gasoline tax increase that went into effect last year.

When Cox met Joseph LaRocca, 51, at the Costco gas station to talk about his support of the gas tax repeal, the self-described independent sounded receptive.

"The truth is we pay high taxes (yet) our roads are a mess," LaRocca said.

Some voters have even higher hopes for him.

"You're our savior," said Joe Jimenez, 60, when he encountered Cox at the Kern County Fair in Bakersfield, Calif.

"Well," countered Cox. "I'm not a savior but I am going to get the state turned around."

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