John Cox, the Republican candidate for governor of California, is embracing the support of President Donald Trump in his bid to become chief executive of the heavily Democratic state.
Cox announced at a Republican Party of San Diego County meeting on Monday that Trump will journey to California at some point before November to campaign for him and other Republicans on the ballot, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
In his speech, Cox indicated that he would not run from Trump's endorsement, which came in May, and that he would actively campaign with the president in California.
"Gavin Newsom is going to make this race all about President Trump. Well, you know what, I welcome it," Cox said. "President Trump is going to come here and campaign for me and for you!"
Cox, a businessman from southern California who previously ran for office in Illinois, surprised political commentators last week by securing a strong second-place finish in the state's gubernatorial primary, which pit members of all political parties against each other on one ballot.
The Republican's rise was partially fueled by a high-profile endorsement from Trump and the candidate's ability to tap into the brewing wave of anti-tax sentiment. Cox, who ran for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination on a platform of eliminating the Internal Revenue Service and slashing taxes, overtook better funded and known candidates, from both political parties, by emphasizing his support for repealing California's recently enacted tax increase on gasoline.
The tax hike, signed by incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown (D.) and championed by the overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature, raised the tax levied on gasoline by 43 percent and led to the recall of a Democratic state senator who voted for its passage.
Cox seems to be embracing the very issue—the president's support—that many believe Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate who garnered the most primary votes, will make central to his general election strategy.
The strategy was on full display not long after the primary votes were tallied. In his victory speech, Newsom said that California's values are "under assault" and that voters would have "a real choice" to make this election cycle "between a governor who is going to stand up to Donald Trump and a foot soldier in his war on California."
Newsom even took the added step of sarcastically urging the president to "come campaign" for Cox "as much as possible" in response to a tweet from Trump congratulating the Republican for a solid performance in the primary.
During the 2016 presidential election, Trump lost California by more than four million votes to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The loss, coupled with the president's low popularity rating, has resulted in political consultants opining that Trump could hamper Republican efforts to make inroads in the heavily Democratic state.
Cox appears unswayed by such arguments. On the campaign trail, his campaign has not only touted Trump's endorsement, but also the endorsement of Trump's daughter-in-law.
In an interview conducted after the primary, Cox said he was "proud" to have garnered the president's backing and believed it was beneficial to his strong showing.
"I'm glad the president supported me. I’m proud of that," he said. "I think it helped consolidate the Republican vote."
Cox also appears unwilling to allow his opponent to distract the California electorate from the pressing problems at home, by focusing on the politics of Washington, D.C.
"Donald Trump did not create the housing crisis, high taxes, and gas tax that we're also going to repeal in November," Cox said "People have to realize the mismanagement of this state has resulted in our lousy quality of life in a wonderful place to live. The political mismanagement is epic."
"Gavin Newsom is going to run against the president and make him the issue," he added. "That is a distraction."