SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Corruption and cronyism have ruined California, Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox told a sparse University of San Francisco crowd Thursday evening, and he’s just the man to turn things around.
“We haven’t addressed a lot of the major problems in this state,” Cox said. “The poverty rate has exploded in this state. The middle class is almost nonexistent. People are being crushed every single day by the lack of affordability.”
And it’s government waste that’s making life in California unaffordable for so many, Cox said.
“We don’t have good political management,” Cox said. “We have corrupt special interests that control Sacramento, that drive up the cost of government, that make sure they’re taken care of with high salaries and ridiculous pensions and other costs and that’s why our taxes are so high, and I’m going to make sure that those taxes go down. I hate waste.”
In an Uber on the way to USF from the airport, he said he learned that his driver is currently working two jobs, yet housing expenses forced him to move from his home in South San Francisco to the East Bay.
“That’s what I get all the time, people having to move hours away from their place of work because they can’t afford a house or rent,” Cox said. “And then of course, when they end up moving farther away, they spend several hours in traffic. Then they pay a crushing cost of gasoline which has been made even worse by the Legislature in the last year by the gas tax.”
Cox’s Thursday night appearance is part of a series of five question-and-answer sessions with gubernatorial candidates sponsored by Politico and the University of San Francisco’s Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good.
A Chicago native who now lives in San Diego, Cox is best known as a businessman, but he’s also an attorney and a former candidate for Congress and the U.S. Senate.
He told moderator Carla Marinucci that he considers himself a supply-side economics, fiscally prudent conservative in the mode of his mentor Jack Kemp and role model John F. Kennedy, and while Marinucci pressed him to sound off on President Donald Trump, Cox said he’d rather stick to policy.
“I’m a Jack Kemp Republican. I’m a believer in a rising tide lifting all boats, which goes back to my love of John F. Kennedy,” Cox said. “And he would be a Republican today— the Democrat party has gone so far afield from John F. Kennedy, it’s not even funny.”
His Democratic contenders, he said, are too busy griping about the president to focus on the real issues.
“Those candidates I’m running against are using the president as a distraction from the problems Californians are facing every single day,” he said. “The people of California are waking up every day and trying to figure out how they’re going to pay for their house, how they’re going to pay for their water bill, how they’re going to pay their electricity bill.”
Cox said that while he didn’t vote for Trump, he now realizes he misjudged the president’s conservatism.
“I was wrong. I made a mistake on the policies he’s followed through on like cutting taxes and reducing regulation,” Cox said.
Turning to current events, Marinucci asked Cox what he thought of Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf, who issued a warning over the weekend about impending raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I think every public official should comply with the law and should want the law compiled with,” Cox said. “The alternative is chaos. The alternative is a failed state. We have an immigration law for a reason and that’s to make sure that people we let into our country are here to obey our laws and not do us harm. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. But when public officials like Ms. Schaaf deliberately go out of their way not to enforce the law, that’s when there’s chaos.”
If elected, Cox said, the first thing he’ll do is “get rid of the sanctuary state,” adding that he’s pro-immigration “if it’s legal.” He said he’ll push for solutions like a seasonal guest worker program and e-verification, which helps businesses filter undocumented immigrants out of the hiring process.
Marinucci and Cox also talked gun control, and Cox said he disagreed with Trump’s plans for more gun regulations. “California has more than enough gun laws. Let’s talk about what solves the problem,” he said.
“What’s the common thread of the mass shootings? It’s not the availability of guns or the lack of gun laws. It is the mentally ill. It is the infamy. Why don’t we take that away from them?”
Cox said the eagerness of the media to publicize the names and faces of shooters has only added to the allure of going down in a blaze of glory, and taking as many victims along.
“We don’t publicize the names of sexual assault victims or minors. Why don’t we agree to do something positive and ask the media not to publicize the names and pictures of these killers,” he said. “I haven’t heard any one standing up and asking the media not to publicize these people.”
“Are you really saying it’s the media publicizing people?” Marinucci asked. “What evidence do you have for that?”
“Common sense,” Cox said. “What’s the problem with agreeing not to do that? If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. And I think it will work.”
He said he doesn’t believe the media loves shootings, but it certainly adds to clicks and ratings. “I’m saying there are certain benefits. I don’t blame you,” he said.
Cox also touted the policy for which he is probably most well known, the “Neighborhood Legislature” initiative that would create 12,000 hyper local districts in the state. Of those, 120 representatives would be chosen to by their peers to go to Sacramento to work on legislation, which would be voted on remotely by the 12,000.
“It creates 12,000 districts but it creates no new level of government,” he said. “It serves to elect people who aren’t politicians. If all you have to do to run for the state legislature is print up a few flyers and go door to door, the cronies are powerless.”
Cox has spent years trying to get the initiative before voters. While it’s reportedly failed to make the ballot this year as well, Cox said the validation process “was extremely flawed” and that Orange County threw out 5,000 signatures because they didn’t match. He inspected them himself, he said, and found no discrepancies.
Nonetheless, he said he’s confident he’ll get the measure in front of voters in November, and that it will succeed.
“There’s certain powers in this state that don’t want change,” Cox said. “The reason it’s going to be popular was it’s going to take the money and corruption out of politics. The cronyism and corruption in Sacramento is monumental. It’s the reason this state is unaffordable.”