Entry of Doug Ose in governor’s race could help Democrats, analysts say

Since 1998, Republican candidates for governor in California have gotten 38 percent, 42 percent, 56 percent, 41 percent and 40 percent in the general election. Will that figure be 0 percent in this November’s race?

That is the consensus of state pundits and analysts with former Sacramento Rep. Doug Ose becoming the third GOP candidate seeking to replace termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown, joining Huntington Beach Assemblyman Travis Allen and Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox. Unless one of the three Republicans breaks out as the strong favorite of the expected 40 percent GOP share of June primary voters, there is a good chance that the November election will pit Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom against former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – two Democrats.

“It gets very hard to do the math to find some scenario where a Republican gets enough votes to slip into the runoff,” Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s a math problem. It makes a Dem-on-Dem race more likely if you continue to split the Republican vote.”

“I think Doug Ose’s heart is in the right place … but he further dilutes the field,” Bill Whalen, a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, told the Los Angeles Times. “If all the Republicans stay in, it’s mutually assured destruction.”

In the most recent major poll – released by the Public Policy Institute of California in late November – Newsom had 23 percent, Villaraigosa 18 percent, Cox 9 percent, state Treasurer John Chiang 9 percent and Allen 6 percent.

Ose told the Chronicle that the state GOP establishment privately hailed his decision to join the race. Like Ose, Cox is a wealthy businessman who can self-fund his campaign if necessary. But Cox has never held office. Allen, meanwhile, has little name recognition and has struggled to raise funds.

Allen hammers Cox for not voting for Trump in 2016

Cox is launching a statewide radio ad campaign this week targeting Newsom for high state taxes. Allen, meanwhile, is bidding to become the breakout GOP candidate by emphasizing his leadership of one attempt to overturn the unpopular gas tax hike approved by the Legislature last year and his support for President Donald Trump.

In their first debate on Jan. 4 in Mentone – before Ose joined the race – Allen slammed Cox over and over for voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in the 2016 presidential election.

“If you didn’t vote for the Republican nominee for president in 2016, you supported Hillary Clinton,” Allen said, according to an L.A. Times account. “If you’re not voting for Trump, you’re voting for crooked Hillary.”

Cox has said he shunned Trump in 2016 not because of Trump’s various controversies that campaign season but because of his history of voting for Democrats. Cox expresses regret for backing Johnson and says he is now a Trump admirer. Ose has been a consistent supporter of Trump.

Polls suggest the U.S. Senate race in November will have only Democratic candidates as well. With no high-profile GOP candidate yet in the picture and hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer deciding against running, incumbent Dianne Feinstein seems poised for a November showdown with Senate President Kevin de León.

Chronicle senior political writer Joe Garofoli suggested the lack of Republican candidates for the state’s two top elections could hurt GOP turnout. But November ballot measures affecting taxes, guns and public education could still generate substantial Republican interest – especially the bid to repeal the gas tax hike and an attempt by Democrats to roll back parts of Proposition 13 to allow for annual tax hikes on commercial properties.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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