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Politics

Candidates for California governor make their final pitches to voters

WESTMINSTER,CA --SUNDAY, JUNE 03, 2018--California democratic candidate for governor, Lt. Gov Gavin
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the front-runner in the governor’s race, visits a Westminster shop owned by Thanh Trang, left, during his weeklong bus tour of the state.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Courting worshipers at Sunday church services, diners at Los Angeles landmarks and bar-hoppers in West Hollywood, the candidates for California governor crisscrossed the state in a last-minute bid to prod supporters to the polls on Tuesday, persuade the undecided — and avoid any unforced errors.

For front-runner Gavin Newsom, who leads in fundraising and the polls, that meant declining to judge Assemblyman Rob Bonta’s annual chili cook-off in Oakland.

“When you’re an elected official, rule No. 1 is never judge a competition, because you are guaranteed to anger people,” he said after addressing a crowd that included union members and their families.

Clambering on top of a fire truck, Newsom warned them of an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision that stands to weaken the ability of unions to collect fees.

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“You did good, thank you man,” SEIU 1021 member Jack Bryson told Newsom before they hugged and launched into a discussion of the NBA finals.

Bryson, 56, lived in San Francisco when Newsom was mayor and recalled him playing basketball with young men in underprivileged communities.

“He would come out and have conversations,” Bryson said, explaining why he was voting for Newsom. “Those are the things that matter.”

The stop was part of a weeklong bus tour of California that saw Newsom typically visiting three media markets a day.

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On Friday in Fresno, Elizabeth Howard, 8, told Newsom she was afraid there would be a shooting at her elementary school. Newsom launched into a familiar speech about gun control before pausing and crouching on his knees to address the young girl face to face.

“Just know this: We are never going to allow this to be the new norm,” he said, looking her in the eyes. “Know that people care more about one thing than anything else – your safety. When you go to school, the last thing you should be thinking about is guns. The last thing you should be worrying about is someone coming into your school.”

The two men vying for the second spot in the primary to compete with Newsom in the general election took markedly different approaches.

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LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - MAY 31: Gubernatorial candidate and Former Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villar
Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa serves food at Philippe's in downtown during a 24-hour campaign sprint through the city last week.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times )

Fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa embarked on a frenzied, round-the-clock bus tour of Los Angeles-area landmarks.

Well past midnight on Thursday night, the smell of marijuana filled the air as Villaraigosa made his way down Santa Monica Boulevard. Shout-outs and handshakes were extended to the former Los Angeles mayor at nearly every West Hollywood patio bar he passed. Earlier in the evening, Villaraigosa had stopped by iconic gay bar The Abbey in West Hollywood.

“I support you and so does my whole board,” Chris Classen, president of the gay rights organization LA Pride, said after running into Villaraigosa on the sidewalk. “Thank you for your service.”

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The 24-hour bus tour recalled Villaraigosa’s earlier days campaigning for office. It began at 7 a.m. Thursday at the La Cienega/Jefferson stop of the Expo Line, one of the light rail lines Villaraigosa pushed for as mayor.

Deborah Reese, 64, smiled when Villaraigosa walked up to her as she was waiting for an early-morning train. She told him it was good to see him back in politics, and Villaraigosa was quick to tell her about his role building the train platform under her feet.

But afterward, she remained undecided in the governor’s race.

“There’s 20 some candidates, and it’s hard to choose from and it’s hard to filter it out. I’ll be reading a lot this weekend,” said Reese, of Culver City. “He’s got an uphill climb.”

Nearly 20 hours later, sunlight was peeking over the horizon when Villaraigosa arrived at the Los Angeles Flower Market.

Lisa Gallegos, 53, of Long Beach walked up to ask how he was going to address the explosion of homelessness downtown.

“This is turning into a crisis. This is turning into a health issue,” said Gallegos, who had just arrived to work at the market.

Villaraigosa said he wants to bring back redevelopment zones, which were defunded by the state during the recession, to help cities build more affordable housing.

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“The cities and counties can’t do it by themselves,” he told her as he moved out of the way of freshly cut flowers being wheeled in and out of the market. “The state has to get involved with funding.”

la-me-governor-campaign
Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox has President Trump's endorsement for California governor. Above, the Republican candidate speaks at a May event in Fresno.
(Tomas Ovalle / For The Times )

Meanwhile, Republican John Cox kept a low profile.

On Sunday, Cox attended church and the day before he addressed a small gathering of GOP loyalists in Rancho Bernardo.

He spoke about four minutes before dashing off for an interview with Fox News, one of 10 he has done in the past two weeks as he seeks to consolidate GOP support.

“This is the Golden State, and for the last eight years the Democrats have run this state into the ground,” Cox told the crowd. “I’m going to have Gavin Newsom own that.”

The low-key event lacked the large crowds his top rivals in the race have seen. But Cox, whose campaign got a boost with the endorsement of President Trump, appeared content not to stir things up. He has been in second place behind Newsom in recent public opinion polls, which could mean advancing to the November election.

Cox’s top Republican rival, Assemblyman Travis Allen of Huntington Beach, has fewer supporters in the polls than Cox, but they are passionate. Some showed up to protest Newsom outside his Fresno rally.

On Sunday, Allen held a fiery “Take back California” rally on the Huntington Beach pier.

“No longer will we lead the country in poverty, homelessness, with rising violent crime rates and open borders,” Allen told the crowd, his voice nearing a shout. “We will enforce federal immigration law. We will lead the United States in prosperity.”

Democratic hopefuls John Chiang and Delaine Eastin, who have been mired in the single digits in the polls, tried to imbue their runs with greater symbolic meaning in speeches at a women’s rally in Sacramento Friday, framing their campaigns as a strike against Trump and a bid for women’s equality, respectively.

Chiang, the state treasurer, told the audience that on Tuesday, California voters will “send a powerful and clear signal back to Washington, D.C., that we’re standing up to President Trump.”

Eastin, the state’s former schools chief, said her candidacy would help make inroads in the lagging representation of women in public office.

“The fact is, right now in the state of California, we have a crisis,” Eastin said. “We do not have a Legislature that looks enough like California and that acts on behalf of the people who live here and work here.”

Coverage of California politics »

Times staff writer Melanie Mason contributed to this report.

seema.mehta@latimes.com

phil.willon@latimes.com

For the latest on national and California politics, follow @LATSeema and @philwillon on Twitter.


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