Capitol Alert

Five things you need to know about John Cox

John Cox has run for office many times. Once, he briefly ran for president of the United States. This year, the Republican businessman wants to be governor of California.

Here are five things you should know about Cox:

1. He’s a businessman, but really wants to be a politician: Cox, who grew up and spent much of his life in Chicago, is an attorney, accountant and businessman who said he earns most of his money as a residential property owner. Billing himself as a Jack Kemp-style Republican, he’s run unsuccessfully for for Congress, the U.S. Senate and Cook County Recorder of Deeds. He also had an aborted presidential campaign ahead of the 2008 race. Cox lives in Rancho Santa Fe, in San Diego County. He is married to Sarah Cox, and has four daughters.

2. His biggest moment was debating Barack Obama, kind of. In the 2004 U.S. Senate race in Illinois, Cox used a debate between 11 candidates, including then state Sen.-Barack Obama, to drive home his belief that it isn’t tax cuts that harm the economy, but deficit spending. Later, when he ran for president in the 2008 race, 10 Republicans made the cut for the GOP debate in South Carolina. Cox was not one of them.

3. He’s all about fighting corruption. For years he’s pushed a statewide ballot initiative to subdivide existing legislative districts, which have 500,000 residents and 1 million, respectively, into smaller districts. Each of the districts would have 5,000 to 10,000 people, making way for more door-to-door campaigns and, Cox argues, lessening the grip of special interests.

“California has the largest legislative districts in the world,” Cox says of the need for his reforms, which he calls the Neighborhood Legislature. Under his plan, 99 lawmakers would stay home in the district and advise the 120 who would travel to the state Capitol to cast votes. Cox also unsuccessfully sought to place an initiative on the 2016 ballot requiring candidates to declare their top 10 donors in campaign advertisements. Elected officials would have also been required to wear badges detailing their biggest benefactors, much like NASCAR drivers.

4. He didn’t vote for Donald Trump. Cox, whose campaign slogan, “Clean out the Barn” is similar to President Donald Trump’s “Drain the Swamp,” didn’t vote for the GOP nominee. Cox supported libertarian Gary Johnson, though he believes on balance that Trump has done a good job of shaking up Washington and likes the tax plan he signed.

5. Cox says the state needs to overhaul its tax system. He believes California relies too heavily on taxes paid by the wealthy. Cox says he wants to see the income tax significantly reduced, along with matching reductions in spending, a tall order in a state controlled by Democrats. Cox also wants to overturn the gas tax increase and vehicle license fee hike that passed last year.

On other issues, he’s the only Republican in the race who opposes the death penalty, citing his Catholic faith and fiscal conservatism, though aides stressed he “would not interfere … with a lawfully passed and administered death penalty statute or sentence.”

“I love this state, I have three homes here,” he said recently, pausing to suggest the statement may not sit well with everyone. “I can hear my PR guy having a heart attack, but I want people to know I’ve made an investment here, I love it. I’ve been successful, I’ve been lucky, I’m not going to apologize for it. But I’m running for governor to transform this state.”

This item was written by Christopher Cadelago when he was with The Bee Capitol Bureau. He now works at POLITICO in Washington.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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