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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas snaps a selfie on Sunday with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, center, and Laphonza Butler, president of SEIU 2015, at Greater Zion Church in Compton. Newsom, who is running for governor, has led in fundraising and the polls.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa, center, speaks at a campaign event with a carpenters union at a Riverside restaurant on Sunday.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Gubernatorial candidate John Cox outside of Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills where he attended a morning service on Sunday.(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
State Treasurer John Chiang chats with Rickie Byars Beckwith, left, Director of Music and Arts at Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City Wednesday night.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Democratic candidate for Gov. Gavin Newsom hugs Senator Kamala D. Harris following a campaign event at the IATSE Local 80 office in Burbank during a week-long California bus tour.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox holds a press conference at the Republican Party Headquarters in Fresno.(TOMAS OVALLE / For The Times)
Antonio Villaraigosa campaigns in Fresno to highlight his agenda of expanding opportunity for every Californian at Heartbeat Boxing Gym.(TOMAS OVALLE / For The Times)
Assemblyman Travis Allen, Republican candidate for governor, among his supporters after announcing the receipt of more than 35,000 petitions he’s received from people across the state encouraging their local elected officials to opt out of SB 54, making California a “sanctuary state.”(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
State Treasurer John Chiang arrives to officially file to run for governor of California at the Los Angeles County clerk-registrar’s office in Norwalk.(Christina House / Christina House)
Democratic candidate for Gov. Gavin Newsom hugs his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, after her introduction on the steps of San Francisco City Hall before departing on a weeklong campaign bus tour.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Gubernatorial candidate Delaine Eastin speaks to the environmental caucus of the 2018 California Democratic state convention at the San Diego Convention Center.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Democratic candidate for governor Gavin Newsom, right, speaks to reporters on a bus after departing San Francisco on a weeklong campaign tour.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, center left, chats with a delegate during the 2018 California Republican Party convention in San Diego.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa sings with Tomas Delgado, left, the owner of Candelas Guitars, and George Magallanas, a friend of Delgado’s, as he campaigns in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen speaks to delegates at the California Republican Party convention in San Diego.(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
State Treasurer and candidate for governor John Chiang addresses the University of California Board of Regents meeting at UCLA.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Gubernatorial candidate and former California Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin greets a supporter following a debate at Bovard Auditorium on the USC campus.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
California Democratic candidate for Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a small rally organized by local Sierra Club members in Monterey.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Republican candidate for governor John Cox speaks at the Santa Monica Republican Women Federated gubernatorial forum at Amici Brentwood restaurant in Santa Monica.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, second from left, who is running for governor, meets African American leaders at the offices of the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper in Los Angeles.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Gubernatorial candidate John Chiang arrives at a candidates’ forum at Los Angeles Trade Technical College in Los Angeles.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Republican candidate for governor Travis Allen speaks at the Santa Monica Republican Women Federated gubernatorial forum at Amici Brentwood restaurant in Santa Monica.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Gubernatorial candidate Delaine Eastin, center, meets with members of Democratic and progressive political groups during a community meeting at the Bell Arts Factory in Ventura.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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.”
Times staff writer Melanie Mason contributed to this report.