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John Cox launches bus tour in California governor’s race, telling voters ‘help is on the way’

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Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, left, greets David Tran, owner of Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, and employees Wednesday as he kicks off his campaign bus tour.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Republican John Cox, kicking off the final weeks of his campaign for governor, huddled on Wednesday with workers who produce Sriracha hot sauce and prodded them to air their grievances about California’s housing costs and the price they pay at the pump.

The low-key event kicked off Cox’s “Help Is On The Way” statewide bus tour, which will provide the GOP candidate ample opportunities to attack rival Gavin Newsom and other Democrats for the day-to-day struggles of working Californians.

Cox listened intently as mixing-room worker Sal Salas talked of needing two incomes in the family just to pay the rent. Felipe Martinez added that his four children sleep in the lone bedroom in his San Dimas apartment while he crashes every night in the living room.

“The primary reason I’m running for governor is because of the affordability of the state, and livability — and the quality of life in California,” Cox told the small gathering of workers circled around a table inside Huy Fong Foods in Irwindale, where he was joined by company owner David Tran. “I’ve watched what’s happened to the state, and most working people have been priced out.”

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Cox’s campaign stop lacked the crowds and pep-rally atmosphere that surrounded Newsom’s campaign bus tour earlier this month when he stopped in contested congressional and legislative districts to energize support for down-ballot Democrats. Cox never asked the workers for their votes, saying instead that he wanted to hear about the problems they face.

Donna Lam, the company’s executive operations manager, said Huy Fong Foods welcomed the Cox campaign to the plant but added that no one should consider it an endorsement by the company or the owner. Huy Fong Foods welcomes candidates from all parties, as well as Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and church groups, she said.

“David [Tran] is not really political. He’s all about America. Made in America,” Lam said of the owner.

After taking a tour of the plant, Cox told reporters that his 30-stop bus tour will focus on the grave problems facing California, including the rise in poverty, homelessness and cost of living. He blamed those ills on the Democratic politicians who have controlled Sacramento for years.

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Cox walks past his bus at Huy Fong Foods, which makes the popular Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

He also accused Newsom, California’s two-term lieutenant governor and a former San Francisco mayor, of being more focused on criticizing President Trump than tending to the needs of the nearly 40 million people who live in the state.

“My opponent has been part of the problems for the last 16 years. He presided over San Francisco, which is now a cesspool,” Cox said. “He’s been lieutenant governor for eight years, and we haven’t heard a peep out of him in relation to the major problems this state has.”

Newsom has repeatedly called that charge false, saying he has offered concrete policies and solutions while Cox’s campaign promises “have the form and substance of fog.”

Cox also was quick to say that he’s been rising in the polls, a claim borne out by an opinion survey released Wednesday night. A new poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found that, since July, Cox has cut Newsom’s lead in the governor’s race by half — he now trails the Democrat by 12 percentage points.

That same poll found that two-thirds of the likely voters in California disapproved of the job Trump has done as president. Trump endorsed Cox before the June primary, giving his campaign a major boost. Just after Cox finished in the top two in that election, advancing him to the November election, he said he would welcome Trump coming to California to campaign for him.

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2018: Lt. Gov. and gubernatorial candidate Gavin Ne
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Cox’s Democratic rival, visits with children at UCLA’s University Village Center on Wednesday.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

On Wednesday, as his campaign bus headed to Thousands Oaks, Cox told The Times that he still wants Trump’s support on the campaign trail — but said it’s not necessary.

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“I think it would be an honor to have the president support me, but that’s not what my campaign is about,” Cox said. “So it doesn’t matter. My campaign is about delivering results for the people of California.”

Newsom was also in Southern California on Wednesday to tour UCLA’s University Village Center in Los Angeles, an early childcare and education facility that caters to children of students, including low-income families.

He revealed that his campaign will air two more commercials before the Nov. 6 election and described the spots as “positive about the issues.” Newsom also said that he doesn’t have any plans to increase his attacks against opponent Cox, or to link him to Trump.

“I don’t want to,” Newsom said. “He seems to think that’s already happened. I’m focusing on the issues.”

Newsom added that “if he’s coming after me, we’ll have to respond.”

Coverage of California politics »

phil.willon@latimes.com

Twitter: @philwillon

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