Republicans competing for California governor assailed the leading Democrats as immoral philanderers in a debate Tuesday, pillorying the rivals over their past affairs.
Republicans John Cox, Doug Ose and Travis Allen for the first time addressed what they described as character stains on the records of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Democrats who polls show are holding the top-two positions ahead of the June primary.
Newsom has repeatedly apologized since his affair with his appointments secretary came to light in 2007. Ruby Rippey-Tourk, the aide to the then San Francisco mayor, was married at the time to Newsom’s campaign manager and one of his closest strategists. Newsom himself was going through a divorce.
John Diaz, the debate moderator and editorial page editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, asked the Republicans if they would use the affair against Newsom should they advance to the fall runoff.
Ose, appearing in his first media-sponsored debate, indicated he would, noting that Newsom was in a position of power at the time.
“The husband left the building, and Gavin Newsom somehow or another found himself in a situation alone with this woman doing stuff that shouldn’t have been done,” Ose said, linking the scandal to the new wave of sexual harassment in American life.
“I don’t know what caused the predatory culture to arise in our Capitol or our politics. It’s predatory and it’s corrupt and it needs to stop. And the only way to do it is take them out of office.”
Ose, a former congressman, added that he’s been in the public eye for two decades, and “there’s nothing on me.”
Cox, a Rancho Santa Fe businessman, said Newsom’s apologies, including one issued at a forum Monday in San Francisco, failed to address the fact that he was “engaging in that behavior while he was in an office representing people.”
“I take this responsibility that I’m seeking here solemnly,” he said. “And I take issue with Mr. Newsom just passing it off as an indiscretion of his and a moral lapse. It was far, far more than that. It was an endangerment to his position as a leader of this city.”
Allen took aim at both Democrats. Villaraigosa’s 20-year marriage ended amid revelations of his affair with a TV news reporter while he was mayor.
“Both of them have some pretty serious marital infidelities,” Allen charged. “This is a real issue. What we’re looking at is the moral character of these people. It is extremely well documented. This is not something that is being misconstrued ... This is a matter of fact.”
Allen’s name surfaced in the state Legislature’s unprecedented release on Friday of its sexual harassment investigative records. A legislative staff member more than five years ago complained that Allen made her feel uncomfortable by making a practice of being “unnecessarily close” to her. She described incidents in which he slid his foot over to touch hers, and an another incident in which he came up behind her in the cafeteria and squeezed her shoulders.
Allen has said it was an “unsubstantiated complaint.”