Nearly every topic of discussion with Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox comes back to the corrupting influence of money on California government and politics.
He thinks he can get rid of it.
It’s why the San Diego lawyer, accountant and businessman said he’s running for governor in Democratic California against Democratic heavyweights like Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang.
“I believe in people, not the government,” Cox told The Californian during a visit to Bakersfield Wednesday. “The tendency of government is to be corrupt.”
It’s why he’s proposed a ballot initiative — the Neighborhood Legislature — that would shrink state legislative districts to one one-hundredth of their current size and build new 100-member bodies that would elect one of their members to a post in Sacramento then monitor that person’s actions.
“All we’re doing is making the districts smaller so you don’t have to have money to run for office,” he said.
And when the money’s gone, Cox believes, corruption will go with it.
Cox’s distaste for political shenanigans, he said, started early.
He grew up in a Chicago that languished under the thumb of the Daley political machine and took his distaste for what he saw there with him into his adult life.
He ran for office several times in Illinois, losing a Senate race and backing out of a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, according to news reports.
He has maintained an active political life here in California.
Cox, 61, was in Bakersfield to meet with news outlets as he travels around the state to campaign. He’s been in Fresno, Visalia, Los Angeles and San Francisco and is headed to the Inland Empire and Stockton soon.
Cox said he believes he’s going to win the governor’s seat.
The people of California are fed up with the way the state has changed in the last 30 or 40 years, he believes. They’re done with politicians like the Democrats he faces and want a business leader — someone mature — to step up.
“If Jerry Brown is the adult in Sacramento,” Cox said, “then Gavin Newsom is the teenager with the bottle of liquor and the car keys.”
Once voters understand his Neighborhood Legislature concept, he said, they will support his campaign.
His platform issues are reliably conservative — but always link back to Cox’s core gripe — that the political system is rigged against the people.
“Oil is way more regulated that it needs to be,” he said.
He believes public pensions are broken and unsustainable — the concept just can’t function with people living longer lives and draining funds from fixed-benefit programs.
The state’s roads need to be fixed — but first government bloat in Caltrans needs to be fixed. His idea — outsource more engineering work to the private sector.
California’s water resource problems also need to be resolved, Cox said, but not by a pork-filled public works project like the proposed delta tunnel.
“We’ve gotta balance the human need for water against the need to preserve natural fisheries,” he said.
Unions and business lobbyists need to be held in check.
A whole industry is dedicated to raising and spending money to influence elections and politics in Sacramento, Cox said.
He loves teachers, he said.
“I tell teachers all the time, ‘I want to see you paid like rock stars and baseball players,’” Cox said. But “shouldn’t teaching be a meritocracy.”
Tenure is a bad system that exists in elementary schools and high schools because the employee unions protect that system.
“I don’t blame the unions, they're just doing what the system allows them to do,” Cox said. “I blame us for keeping the system in place.”