The New York Times: A Republican Candidate for Governor Talks About Corruption

The New York Times

A Republican Candidate for Governor Talks About Corruption

Kevin Faulconer, San Diego’s mayor, was viewed as the best Republican shot for California governor.

So his announcement that he wouldn’t run left supporters deflated.

It also renewed attention on the few Republicans who have entered the race, including John Cox, a San Diego area businessman who says he would root out political corruption.

To accomplish that, Mr. Cox, 62, is pushing an audacious initiative known as the Neighborhood Legislature.

The idea is to all but eliminate the influence of money in politics by shrinking legislative districts down to neighborhood size — 12,000 altogether. Each district would elect a representative, who would in turn elect representatives from among their number to go to Sacramento.

We caught up with Mr. Cox by phone. Some excerpts:

Q. What’s the first issue you would tackle if elected?

A. The corruptive influence of special interests. Voters across the state get what’s going on in Sacramento. The big union bosses and the big corporate bosses control Sacramento — big oil, big tobacco, big pharma, big telecommunications. Go down the list and look at what they give to candidates to the Legislature. You’ll see why Sacramento is broken.

Tell me about the Neighborhood Legislature.

It makes every campaign to the Legislature door-to-door, person-to-person.

Right now, to run for the Legislature you’ve got to have tons of money or you have to have tons of connections or you’ve got to sell your soul to funders. With tiny districts, which is what the Neighborhood Legislature is all about, we’ll have true small campaigns where voters get a say.

Are people going to want to devote time to that?

It’s funny you mention that. I’ve spoken to 100 rotary clubs.

These are people who know their community. Every week they come out to rotary and talk about how they could help the community. Do they get paid to do it? No. Do they feel a sense of community enough that they want to get involved? Absolutely. Would any of them want to run for the State Senate or the State Assembly with the current humongous districts? Not on your life. And the reason is they would have to give up their entire life. But they are happy to give up a portion of their life.

You’re a wealthy guy. Why not kick back?

My mom was a Chicago public-school teacher. I witnessed the effects of corruption firsthand growing up. There were many principals who got their jobs because they were friends of the alderman. My mom was a liberal Democrat and a union member, but she hated that corrupt system because it put politics ahead of students. That really, really formed me.

We’ve got to start taking back the government. But what happens in Sacramento is that special interests get their way. And it’s corrupt. And it’s wrong. You want to know why I don’t sit back? It’s because that system is unsustainable.

This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

Paid for by John Cox for Governor 2018