Republican candidate in second place for California governor's race

The latest poll in the California governor’s race shows new hope for Republicans with a relatively unknown Republican candidate in second place.

John Cox is a San Diego County businessman who was born and raised in Chicago and is now running for governor. The father of four has been in real estate for more than 30 years. 

“You can’t run an economy the way it's been run,” Cox said. “I'm a businessman. I'm going to change that.”

The latest gubernatorial poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California shows Gavin Newsom is the clear front runner in the lead. Cox, a Republican, is second, with a slight edge over former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

“I think it reflects the fact that most people are looking for a better alternative,” Cox said.

Cox believes Californians are tired of getting taxed by Democrats. He is leading the effort to repeal the state gas tax. He also wants to bring down the cost of regulation and create more supply to address the housing crisis.

Jason Clark, Chairman of the SF Republican Party in San Francisco, said he is not surprised by Cox’s ranking in the poll. He said California is home to nearly 5 million Republicans, with many in the southern part of the state.

“I think people are ready for a change,” Clark said. “I think a lot of people are starting to question whether Villaraigosa or Newsom have what it takes to be governor and if they should be governor.”

Mark Baldassare, President of the Public Policy Institute of California, said their poll shows immigration is the most important topic that voters want to hear about. 

“I think what's really important about this poll is that a quarter of voters are still undecided,” Baldassare said. “People are starting to pay attention because this is one of the most important decisions California voters will make this year.”

The poll was taken in early March when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was suing California over its sanctuary policies. Cox said he wants to repeal the state’s sanctuary status. He said local officials should communicate with federal immigration authorities.

Most of all, Cox said he wants to remove special interests from Sacramento because he believes that is driving up the cost of living.

“My agenda is that I want my children to live near me in California,” he said.” And there's a lot of people like me that are fearful that their children will have to move away.”

A spokesman for Antonio Villaraigosa released a statement that reads:

“Mayor Villaraigosa is visiting every corner of the state, delivering a clear message – our economy needs to lift more families into the middle class and keep them there.  While polls go up and down, we remain focused on our vision of greater economic opportunity and equality for all. In the next seventy-five days, voters will hear more from the candidates, and we’re confident Californians share Mayor Villaraigosa’s vision of economic prosperity and equality."

KTVU reached out to Gavin Newsom’s team for comment, but did not hear back.