Rancho Santa Fe venture capitalist exploring bid for governor

Venture capitalist John Cox of Rancho Santa Fe is contemplating running for governor.
Venture capitalist John Cox of Rancho Santa Fe is contemplating running for governor.
(Union Tribune)

Republican and Rancho Santa Fe venture capitalist John Cox is considering a run for governor, a campaign he said would focus on combating government corruption in Sacramento.

Cox, an attorney and certified public accountant who moved to San Diego County from Chicago about nine years ago, said he plans to jump start his campaign with $1 million of his own money. But he said he has no plans to self-fund his bid to succeed Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018. The Sacramento Bee was the first to report that Cox had formed an exploratory committee for governor.

Cox also is pushing a proposed ballot initiative to overhaul Sacramento by establishing a “neighborhood legislature,” which would add thousands of new “citizen legislators” to the 80 assembly members and 40 senators who currently make up the California Legislature. To pass, bills would require approval from all of those representatives.

“This campaign is going to be about the neighborhood legislature,” he said. “To take our government back from the funders, the cronies and the corrupt.”

In 2016, Cox also pushed for a short-lived ballot measure proposal that would have required state legislators to wear the logos of their top donors when they appeared at official functions — similar to emblems of sponsors worn by NASCAR drivers.

In 2003, Cox ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in Illinois against Barack Obama. Cox, 61, is married and has four daughters.

Cox said it’s a “reasonable certainty” that he will run for governor in 2018, joining a field that already includes some well-known Democrats, including: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, state Treasurer John Chiang and former state superintendent of public instruction Delaine Eastin. The only well-known Republican in the race thus far is former Los Angeles Rams football star Rosey Grier.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, also a Republican, is frequently discussed as a potential candidate and has repeatedly placed second in polls behind Newsom. Faulconer on several occasions has said he is not running and intends to complete his four-year term in 2020.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel said he has no plans to run for governor. Thiel, a Republican, was one of the few Silicon Valley tech leaders to back Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The Union-Tribune contributed to this story.

Willon writes for the California News Group, publisher of the Union-Tribune and Los Angeles Times.