President Donald Trump endorsed Republican candidate John Cox for California governor in a tweet on May 18, less than three weeks before the 2018 California primary election.
In California’s “top-two system” for the primary election, all candidates will be on the ballot regardless of their political affiliations, but only the candidates who finish in first and second place will advance to the November general election.
Two new polls, the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll and another by the Public Policy Institute of California, showed that current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, was in the lead, while Cox and Democratic candidate Antonio Villaraigosa trailed behind Newsom in a close race for second place.
Winning second place is now the focus of the gubernatorial race in California, because whoever wins it will be the one running against Newsom in the November runoff.
Cox is a businessman who has been active in politics but has never won any public elections for government or legislative offices. Villaraigosa, a career politician and former mayor of Los Angeles, has been supported by many prominent Democrats and national celebrities, including Michael Bloomberg, the 10th-richest man in the world and a former mayor of New York City.
The recent exchanges between the campaigns of Cox and Villaraigosa have become increasingly negative as the race heats up.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Bloomberg, Netflix founder Reed Hastings, and other wealthy charter-school supporters are spending millions on a campaign to get Villaraigosa into the runoff with Newsom. This campaign, aimed at Republican voters, includes promoting the idea that Cox is a Democrat in disguise, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In a press conference in Burlingame, California, Cox told San Francisco Bay Area media, “I call on Mr. Bloomberg today to renounce the efforts of an independent expenditure committee for Mr. Villaraigosa, because they are mounting one of the most devious campaigns with a complete lack of integrity.”
Cox said in the press conference that the liberal Democratic special interests had not only lied about him, but also made it seem as if they were trying to help his Republican opponent.
Cox’s Republican opponent in the gubernatorial race, Travis Allen, is currently a Republican assemblyman in California’s Orange County. The two polls showed that Allen was behind Newsom, Cox, and Villaraigosa in a distant fourth place.
“I’m going to call upon the members of the media, I’m going to call upon all people of California to rise up against what is going on,” Cox said in the Burlingame press conference.
Cox added that organizations funded by Bloomberg and others were sending out mailers with lies about Cox. As a result, some Republican voters were misled and believed that those mailers were sent to them for the purpose of helping Allen’s campaign.
Allen, who gained endorsements from more than 20 California GOP county committees, was once tied with Cox. However, after Trump endorsed Cox in his tweet, Allen began to trail behind Cox. Several top GOP leaders in California have endorsed Cox.
Bloomberg, a tycoon in financial services, technology, and media, was once a Democrat and switched to Republican before winning the New York mayoral election. He left the Republican Party in his second term as mayor, and he was later elected mayor a third time as an independent. At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, he gave a speech calling for the election of Hillary Clinton.
In California, the strong anti-Trump movement after the 2016 presidential election once made many voters in this blue state believe that having ties with Trump would be a death factor for any candidate running for public office. Now, however, the tide seems to have turned, and many Republican and independent candidates are not afraid of speaking to the public in support of Trump’s policies.
“I was endorsed by President Donald Trump; I’m very proud of that,” Cox said in the press conference.
Trump may have gained more support in California because of the success of his policies. Cox said that the economy is expected to achieve over 3 percent growth this year for the first time in many years, and the unemployment rate is historically low.
Trump’s endorsement of Cox fits in with Trump’s wish to make changes in the political world by bringing in outsiders, as well as the president’s attempts to bring in people with more business experience.
“I was endorsed because I’m a businessman who is interested in good policy. I am interested in results. I am running for governor to deliver a better quality of life to the people of California,” Cox said in the press conference.
Cox also said there were 19 governors around the country who were businessmen before taking office, reflecting what he believed about why he got the endorsement from Trump.
As Trump tries to change the establishment by bringing businesspeople to the political world, Californians are now seeing strong resistance from the establishment in Sacramento. In the gubernatorial race, California voters will decide whether they want Sacramento to change its approaches to the issues facing the state, or to replace the old politicians with new ones who move in the same direction.