Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom is offering some unusual advice to California voters in the June 5 primary: support the leading Republican candidate, businessman John Cox, rather than the other Democratic contender, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Newsom is reportedly worried that a Democrat-versus-Democrat contest in November would be very costly in financial terms. He is less worried about a race against Cox — or any other Republican — given the large advantages Democrats have in voter registration and enthusiasm.
California’s unique “top two” or “jungle” primary system means that voters can vote for any candidate, from any party, in the primary election. The top two finishers advance, regardless of party.
Cox has consistently been in, or near, second place over the last three months, as Republican enthusiasm has surged in opposition to the state’s “sanctuary” laws, and as Villaraigosa has struggled to generate voter enthusiasm, even among Latino voters.
That has encouraged some optimism among Republicans, who hope that having a candidate on the general election ballot will motivate their voters to turn out statewide, boosting the fortunes of congressional candidates in closely-contested districts.
But Newsom disagrees, according to the Los Angeles Times:
Gubernatorial front-runner Gavin Newsom on Tuesday predicted a bruising, divisive general-election campaign with $100 million spent against him if he and fellow Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa emerge as the top two winners in the June 5 primary.
“You want a race that’s a just knock-out, drag-down [between] Democrats driving down turnout? I think that’s guaranteed to do that,” Newsom told reporters on his campaign bus.
He was pushing back at a narrative among pundits that his campaign’s efforts to boost the candidacy of Republican John Cox could ultimately hurt Democratic efforts to retake the House in the fall. The conventional wisdom is that having a Republican at the top of the ticket on the November ballot would increase GOP voter turnout, which could help vulnerable Republican members of Congress hold on to their seats.
Newsom argued the opposite, saying that having Democrats consolidate behind one candidate in the general election would do more to create unity and passion among their voters than a Democrat-on-Democrat battle.
Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) is also hoping to upset both Cox and Villaraigosa, and held a campaign rally near the border in San Diego on Sunday.
Cox has been campaigning in the Central Valley this week, according to the Times, hoping to consolidate party support and avoid a split in the GOP vote that could deny him a spot on the November ballot.
Groups supporting Villaraigosa have been boosting Allen, hoping to encourage such a split.
Newsom has been consistently, and comfortably, ahead of the rest of the field.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.