The Union Democrat
By: Alex Maclean
Aug. 29, 2017
Following years of successes at the local level, Tuolumne County Republicans are setting their sights on a bigger prize by helping to elect the state of California’s first GOP governor since Arnold Schwarzenegger left office in 2011.
The Tuolumne County Republican Central Committee and Republican Women Federated co-hosted an event Monday evening at Black Oak Casino Resort in Tuolumne to hear from one declared Republican gubernatorial candidate, John Cox, 62, a San Diego County businessman seeking his first elected office.
“I believe California is actually a red state with a few blue splotches,” Cox told the crowd of about 60 seated around about a dozen tables in the resort’s conference center.
Cox, a father of four who lives with his wife, Sarah, in Rancho Santa Fe, said he’s been traveling throughout the state in recent weeks to help raise his profile in the already crowded 2018 race that includes a number of high-profile Democrats in state politics, such as California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Treasurer John Chiang, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin.
Gov. Jerry Brown has served in the position since January 2011.
Cox touted his business acumen and outsider appeal while taking a few jabs at Newsom, whom he believed would be his likely contender in the November 2018 general election if he can clinch the most or second-most votes in the state’s top-two primary election in June.
“I’ll be an accountant as governor,” Cox said. “I know how to balance the budget.”
Cox said in an interview before his speech that he grew up in the south side of Chicago as one of four children raised by a single mother. He worked his way through college to become a Certified Public Accountant, which he did while earning a law degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law.
By the age of 24, Cox said he started a law accounting firm specializing in tax planning and corporate law. He had 13 lawyers working for him by the time he turned 30 and began investing in apartments.
Cox estimated that he owns and manages about 3,000 apartment units, mostly in Indiana. He moved to California about 10 years ago to be closer to his family.
One of Cox’s major legislative goals is to reduce the influence of money in state politics through Neighborhood Legislature Initiative that he hopes to get on the ballot in 2018.
“Today, California has the largest (legislative) districts in the world,” Cox said. “If you have to get a elected in a district of 500,000 people, you need a lot of money and time.”
California has 80 State Assembly districts and 40 State Senate districts. Cox’s proposal, inspired in part by New Hampshire’s state legislature, would divide the districts into a 100 smaller, “neighborhood districts” that would each have a representative elected by the people who live in them.
The 100 representatives in each district would select a member to represent them in Sacramento, so there would still ultimately be 40 state senators and 80 assembly members.
Cox believes the change would reduce the potential for political corruption and return more influence back to the people as opposed to lobbyists.
The State of Jefferson movement, which has seen a groundswell of support in the Mother Lode, is seeking a similar solution to the issue of rural areas being underrepresented in the state Legislature when compared to bigger coastal cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Though he was sympathetic to the cause, Cox said he doesn’t believe the movement’s ultimate goal of splitting off from California to form a 51st state is likely to happen given the number of hurdles.
“It’ll never happen,” Cox said. “You have to get the consent of Congress and the people of California. Are they going to give back Yosemite and all of the water?”
Cox didn’t vote for President Donald Trump in the latest election, opting instead for Libertarian candidate and fellow businessman-turned-politician Gary Johnson. However, he said that he was happy that Trump triumphed over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
“I don’t agree with (Trump’s) style per se, but I’m going to support him and want him to succeed,” Cox said, adding that he was growing weary of the tactics being used to resist Trump’s agenda. “He could say that he likes bunny rabbits and watermelons or something, and people would twist it into a racist comment.”
Trump’s victory last November was a shock to the political system that pleased many faithful Republicans in the county. He won Tuolumne County by more than 20 percentage points over Clinton.
At an inauguration party for Trump hosted by the county GOP central committee in January, a number of people expressed their excitement for the new president and talked about how their next goal was to turn California red by electing a Republican governor after eight years under Democratic leadership.
Margaret Davis, vice chairwoman of the central committee, was the one who invited Cox to speak Monday night. She said one of her goals by hosting such an event is to get more young people involved.
“He’s very conservative and I think he’s a good candidate,” Davis said after Cox’s speech. “I just hope we don’t have 17 (candidates) like with the president.”
Davis said Cox’s message of reforming the political system to reduce the influence of money was something that resonated with her. She cited a recently proposed bill that would ban pet shops in the state from selling cats, dogs and rabbits unless they are rescue animals, something she viewed as a gift to big, corporate pet chains.
Charlotte Frazier, chairwoman of the county’s GOP central committee, said she liked Cox’s proposed ballot initiative and views on the lack of representation for rural areas.
“I think it comes at a poignant moment,” Frazier said. “I just plain like him.”
Cox took questions from the audience after his speech, including one from Dani Danicourt, of Sonora.
Danicourt, owner of Danicourt Welding, asked Cox about regulations on diesel-fuel engines that he says threatens small businesses like his own. He estimates that he will have to spend $200,000 each on his fleet of six vehicles to upgrade them to comply with the regulations next year.
Cox said the state must balance the need to preserve air quality for future generations with implementing regulations that are unfair to small businesses.
As for who Danicourt’s planning to vote for in 2018?
“It’s too early to say yet,” he said in an interview after the event concluded.