John Cox was hardly a serious candidate for governor of California when the first UC Berkeley/IGS poll was announced earlier this year in March and gave him, the only Republican listed in the poll, 18 percent of the vote and the prized second spot against Gavin Newsom, suggesting to amateur political observers that he might have a chance to get into a November 2018 Republican vs. Democrat run-off with Newsom, offering the California GOP its first long-shot chance at statewide office in years. The ensuing press reports took Cox seriously. But none of the reporters did much homework on Cox, labeling him positively as a political newcomer or outsider. They all failed to mention he had been on the ballot before in California, with an awful showing. The reporters could have recalled for readers that Cox was surely not a fresh face to our statewide ballot, and that the last time he was on it, he ran for the Republican nomination for president in the February, 2008 primary, and proved a miserable votegetter, barely mustering 3,200 votes statewide, finishing with .01 percent, while both John McCain and Mitt Romney drew over a million votes each.
Cox, a native of Illinois, is a candidate for governor who must NOT be taken seriously. He is a serial candidate, and what older Republican operatives might label a “Harold Stassen.” Stassen once served as governor of Minnesota and was termed a “boy wonder,” but was bit so hard by the political bug that he ran for the GOP nomination for president, unsuccessfully, 9 times in a row, losing every time. Yet Cox differs from Stassen in that Cox has never won any elective office, and he has run plenty of times. He has actually hit a trifecta of losses having run for every federal office one can, losing each time. Cox has run for Cook County Clerk, Congress, and U.S. Senate, all in Illinois, losing all the races, all losses by wide margins.
But in 2008, despite all his previous electoral defeats, Cox decided to run for president as well. He says he contributed $1 million to his campaign, visited all 99 counties in Iowa, campaigned hard in New Hampshire with 14 visits, visited South Carolina 10 times to campaign, and appeared on the ballot in California. During his campaign, he got into an altercation with security at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley because his campaign performance had proven so insignificant that they would not let him in to the presidential debate. Even though he was excluded, he still tried to use a questionable media credential to enter the premises under the ruse he was a fake press operative. His vote-getting prowess was a disaster – he received not one delegate to the Republican National Convention. In major counties in California that will be very important to the governor’s race, like Fresno, for example, he got just 60 votes across the county’s three congressional districts, according to the California Secretary of State’s office.
By June 2017, Cox quickly fell in the gubernatorial race polls, losing 50 percent of his initial support, in the second UC Berkeley/IGS poll when just one other Republican was added to the mix by the poll authors – this time former Assemblyman David Hadley, who was not an announced candidate for governor at the time he was added to the poll and who has since stated he is not running for the office. The significance of the second poll, with Cox running hard for several months yet dropping from 18 percent to 9 percent as an announced candidate, and Hadley at 7 percent as an unannounced candidate with no campaign, established that Republicans had hardly raised a groundswell of support for Cox in the first poll, rather, Cox made a showing in the first poll in March because he was the only candidate on the poll Republicans had to chose from. As soon as another Republican was put on the list to chose from in the second poll, even someone not running for the office at the time, Cox’s support quickly and very significantly tanked.
Cox’s lack of real support was evidenced again in a poll in Silicon Valley in May where, once again, when listed as the only Republican on the ballot he received 16 percent of the vote, however, when the poll considered “favorability,” Cox garnered a terrible 3 percent, the lowest favorability rate of all the candidates.
When asked, Cox would not tell the San Francisco Chronicle whether or not he voted for Donald Trump for president. While Cox’s strategy may be to separate himself from Trump, who surely is not as popular in California as Gavin Newsom, Cox will not be endearing himself with the thousands of members of Republican volunteer organizations in the state who care about their party’s candidates. Members of the California Republican Woman’s Federated Clubs, for example, who form many local clubs that are the backbone of the state GOP’s grass-roots operations, may or may not have supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, but they surely all overwhelmingly voted for him as the Republican Party’s candidate for president, even if some of them had to “hold their noses” out of party loyalty. These voters will not be impressed with Cox’s lack of candor about his own presidential vote, which will stink to them of party disloyalty.
The issues Californians and Republicans care about in opinion polls, like being taxed too much, do not appear on Cox’s radar screen. Cox’s central campaign theme is his “Neighborhood Legislature” idea, to expand the California Senate and Assembly to 12,000 members. It is truly a nutty idea that has no support in opinion polls. While the state Legislature truly is in need of reform, like making itself a part-time body, world history tells us increasing its size to that of a small coastal city is not going to improve policy. There were also thousands of members of the Soviet Union’s legislative body, far too many, intentionally, to actually make decisions, and the result was the concentration of power in a small committee known as the Politburo, which established a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” We are close enough as it is today with near dictatorship of Democratic control in Sacramento, to just add thousands more people to the legislative ranks.
What California needs is some political balance, and if the Republican Party can settle on a single, strong candidate to run for governor in a field of many Democrats, there is indeed a long-shot chance a united GOP could get their candidate into a run-off with a Democrat and then see what happens. The fact is Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois, all deeply “blue” Democratic states, currently have Republican governors, elected to balance Democratic control in the state. It would be a tough order for the GOP to fulfill, but not impossible, as long as Republicans end up with a candidate with a much better vote-getting history, and who runs on issues voters actually care about, than nutty John Cox.