Capitol Alert

Californians won’t get to vote for 12,000 elected officials in 2018

California gubernatorial candidate John Cox speaks during a debate at Bovard Auditorium on the USC campus in Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018.
California gubernatorial candidate John Cox speaks during a debate at Bovard Auditorium on the USC campus in Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. TNS

Republican John Cox’s bid to overhaul California’s Legislature by adding thousands of elected officials came to a sputtering end Tuesday on the announcement that he failed to collect enough signatures.

Cox, a candidate for governor running on a reform-minded platform, collected 559,906 valid signatures of the 585,407 needed to land his measure on the November statewide ballot. A report prepared by the Secretary of State’s Office showed Cox turned in 18,391 duplicates.

In a statement, Cox said it was “too early” to draw any conclusions, adding that his team planned to go into some of the counties and review the signatures that were rejected.

“Whether or not this reform idea is kept off the ballot – the goal and message of my campaign for governor haven’t changed, we need to eliminate the corrupting influence of special interest money in Sacramento and reclaim California,” Cox said.

Cox, a businessman from Rancho Santa Fe, reported spending $2.4 million on the initiative, nearly all of it from his personal funds.

Cox’s failure to qualify is a hit to his campaign and could serve to undermine the contention that he’s the most competent standard-bearer for his shrinking party. The snag comes not long after one of Cox’s Republican opponents, Travis Allen, collected money but failed to turn in signatures for his version of a gas tax repeal. A separate repeal effort, which has received money from Cox, is still moving ahead.

But it was Cox’s so-called Neighborhood Legislature initiative, which he’s been trying to land on the ballot for years, that received much of his attention at debates and public events. It sought to carve each of the 120 districts, 80 Assembly and 40 Senate, into 100 micro-districts. Neighborhood legislators would then meet locally to select the 80 Assembly working group members and 40 Senate working group members that would represent them in Sacramento.

Cox had predicted that campaigners would spend less time raising money from special interests, including labor unions and corporations, and that serving in the Legislature would once again become an opportunity for public service rather than a job for career politicians.

He argued that the result would be less corruption.

“I am trying to point out a system that is not illegally corrupt, it’s just built for corruption of a legal sort,” Cox said late last year. “What else do you call it when people make these mammoth contributions not only to candidates but to independent expenditure (committees), and they do it to influence legislation, positively or negatively? To me, I call that ‘corruption.’ Other people may say it’s ‘undue influence,’ or it’s ‘influence-peddling.’ I don’t care what you call it, but it results in the fact that we don’t get the best practices.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago