Monday, October 15, 2018




          The focus of the ongoing election, one where many voters already have ballots in hand, is primarily on President Donald Trump, from both his loyal supporters and his fervent opponents.

          Without Trump’s presence, there would be few threats to the current status quo in the state’s delegation to Congress, where 39 current members are Democrats and 14 Republicans. But Trump arouses such strong feelings that half the current GOP seats appear threatened this fall, even though his name is absent from official election materials. So there’s plenty of contrast in the congressional races, where Trump’s antagonists are working ferociously to weaken his support on Capitol Hill.

          One result is that a run for governor that might otherwise be central to voters draws relatively little attention.

          Yet, California’s governor is arguably the second most powerful political figure in America, with a bully pulpit and authority over a huge budget and bureaucracy. The governor and his appointees control utility prices, air quality, highway construction, state parks and much more.

          And the current race between Republican businessman John Cox and Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a former San Francisco mayor and himself a businessman, offers as strong a contrast as any of the hot contests for Congress.

          For sure, the old saw that there’s “not a donut’s worth of difference” between political parties and their candidates does not apply this time.

          One example: Cox is one of the prime funders of Proposition 6, the initiative seeking to rid drivers of a 12 cent per gallon gasoline tax increase imposed mostly by Democratic state legislators last year. Newsom says the state needs the money, but Cox calls Caltrans grossly inefficient and maintains cutting waste would provide money do everything planned for the gas tax increase.

          Cox strongly supports Trump, who also has had a role in this race. The President’s endorsement of Cox before the June primary election was a big reason he won a spot in the current runoff election.

Newsom, meanwhile, promises to continue and possibly expand ongoing California policies that make it the single largest antagonist of Trump’s agenda on the environment, immigration and energy. Trump has attacked Newsom in tweets and speeches, causing Newsom to tweet back that “next time you call me and my policies out, have the guts to @ me and we can have a chat.”

          Then there’s the nonspecific Cox pledge to halt alleged waste at Caltrans, contrasting with Newsom’s call for widespread reforms in the state’s entire contract bidding process. Newsom sees entirely too many single-bid contracts being let by the state, which he says might be wasting billions of dollars.

          Cox firmly opposes the state’s ongoing High Speed Rail construction project, demanding its funds be redirected to improve roads, highways and “more efficient” transit projects, without specifying what that means. Newsom likes the bullet train, sees it as a way to make parts of the Central Valley into bedroom communities for industries in the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas. He says fast trains could make now-torturous commutes routine, allowing workers access to home ownership at costs far below those in coastal counties.

          Newsom says the state’s biggest problem is income inequality, and hopes to relieve it somewhat via single-payer health insurance, among other tactics. Cox never mentions income inequality on the campaign trail or on his website, but says he can relieve much of the state’s poverty via “reform” of the California Environmental Quality Act.

          But their biggest contrasts come over basic values and social issues, where Cox has little to say about gay rights, higher minimum wages or gun control. Newsom makes those issues central in his stump speeches and on his website, where he declares his devotion to those causes and others like paid family leave, universal pre-school and same-sex marriage rights.

          Newsom promises to “protect immigrant rights and defend our sanctuary status;” Cox says he “flatly rejects” sanctuary policies “that have allowed violent criminal aliens to escape prosecution.” He wants “smart immigration” bringing in workers with “skills needed to fill specific shortages.”

          In short, California somehow wound up with a classic Republican vs. Democrat race despite its top-two primary election system, which sees Democrat-on-Democrat contests for many offices, including the U.S. Senate.
    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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