John Cox, who is running for Governor of California as a Republican, has been claiming to reporters that he once “ran against Barack Obama for U.S. Senate” in Illinois, and reporters are buying the claim, here in the Los Angeles Times, and here on Politico.com. The Times reported, “Cox, a Republican, in 2003 ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in Illinois against Barack Obama,” and Politico reported “[i]n 2004, he was one of a half-dozen Republican candidates for the Illinois U.S. Senate, a race in which he appeared at a candidate forum alongside Barack Obama, then a state senator, who eventually won the Senate seat. (The two had a brief one-on-one exchange over the merits of the Iraq war.)” Both statements are untrue, and the source of the misinformation to the reporters was likely Cox himself.
News reports have included a lot of half-baked material and misinformation about Cox. The Los Angeles Times referred to him as an attorney here: http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-updates-republican-john-cox-enters-race-for-1488926825-htmlstory.html but an “attorney search” of the California Bar website here does not yield a “John H. Cox” or any variation as an attorney licensed to practice in California. Cox is also referred to as a “venture capitalist” in media reports but research indicates his most evident corporate activity was serving as a top financial officer for a potato chip company in Chicago, reported in this 1994 article: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-08-26/news/9408260184_1_borden-jays-foods-snack.
Cox appears to be attempting to create a myth about himself that he took on Barack Obama in an election campaign. But that did not happen. Rather, Cox is conflating events to apparently gain sympathy with Republican voters who dislike Obama, in order to counter the fact that he has a very poor vote-getting history, running unsuccessfully for Cook County Recorder of Deeds, U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate, and President. In 2008, Cox gained less than one-tenth of one percent of the vote (0.01%) on the California ballot for president.
Here are the facts about Cox and Barack Obama:
Cox’s Wikipedia page states he ran for Senate in 2002, (not 2003 as misreported by the Times). See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_H._Cox Wikipedia states Cox lost the Republican primary (which was a closed primary) to Jim Durkin receiving 23% of the vote. But said another way, Cox actually finished last in that closed primary against the other two other Republican candidates, (not a “half-dozen” as misreported by Politico) and in 2002 not 2004 (as misreported by Politico). The results of the 2002 Republican primary for U.S. Senate are found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_election_in_Illinois,_2002. The fact is, John Cox ran for U.S. Senate in 2002, and never ran against Barack Obama, who instead ran for U.S. Senate on 2004, in the next election, and one in which Cox did not run for Senate. Rather, according to this Chicago based website, while Obama was running for U.S. Senate in 2004, Cox was running for Cook County Recorder of Deeds at the same time, a race he lost by a wide margin.
Cox roots his claims to having run against Obama in an alleged “candidate debate” he says he had with Obama in August 2003 at Chicago State University. But there was no election going on at that time. An internet records search of Chicago State University does not reveal any corroboration that such a “candidate debate” took place. Rather, Cox was that summer in serious litigation over his 2002 Senate race the previous year, where the Federal Election Commission had assessed a $22,150 fine on him for failure to properly disclose personal funds he used in his race. Cox lost his challenge to the fine, reported by the FEC here, and never filed any documents to run for Senate in the next election in 2004. See http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-recalling-debate-with-candidate-obama-2012sep29-story.html for Cox’s claims about a “candidate debate” with Obama. Cox still claims to reporters to have been a candidate for Senate at the time of this alleged debate, but he really was not, was not officially a candidate, had filed no paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, and he in fact did not run in 2004, which was the Obama election year. If Cox was running for Senate in 2003, it was in his own mind, and not reflected in his deeds or supporting facts. Even the article Cox himself wrote above says he “withdrew” as a candidate before the election – however, there was no election campaign for him to withdraw from. Yet reporters unfortunately persist in accepting Cox’s highly exaggerated and false claim that he “ran for Senate against Barack Obama.”