The two most prominent Republicans running for California governor swung through Fresno on Saturday, doing their best to woo riled-up tea party activists who spent two days there bashing the GOP establishment.
Both Huntington Beach Assemblyman Travis Allen and Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox professed their support and admiration for President Trump, a critical test if they hope to have any shot of winning over members of the conservative movement.
The candidates were speakers at the final day of the Tea Party California Caucus conference this weekend, an event that drew upward of 150 conservatives from throughout the state.
Both got some sideways glances when they talked about their work for moderate Republicans. Allen campaigned for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. Cox is a member of the New Majority, a group founded primarily by Orange County executives to nudge the state party away from socially conservative issues.
“I’m not sure who I’ll support for governor,” said Mylinda Mason of Modesto, one of the tea party activists at the meeting.
But Cox and Allen were warmly received overall, especially with their vows to change how Sacramento works and help the GOP rise to power again in left-leaning California.
Still, when Cox and Allen were asked by the Los Angeles Times if they consider themselves tea party members, both pretty much sidestepped the question.
“I just consider myself a common-sense Californian,” Allen said.
Cox said he is campaigning across the spectrum of the Republican Party, including gay rights Log Cabin Republicans and the moderate New Majority.
“I’m out to unify all Republicans,” Cox said. “I am at heart a fiscal conservative.”
Cox and Allen were invited to the event with the proviso that they would speak only about the ballot initiatives they are sponsoring, though each spent time working the room and worked in ample plugs for their gubernatorial bids.
Allen is pushing for a ballot initiative to repeal the recently approved gas tax to fund statewide road repairs.
Cox is bankrolling a measure to overhaul Sacramento by establishing a “neighborhood legislature” that would add thousands of new “citizen legislators” to the 80 Assembly members and 40 senators who make up the Legislature.
Refusing to be left out, little-known candidate for governor Stasyi Barth of Lake Elsinore walked to the front of the conference hall after Cox and Allen were gone.
Barth yelled above the din as members starting drifting out, telling everyone that she has been a proud, longtime tea party member and was a Trump supporter from the beginning.