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Why Gavin Newsom And Kevin McCarthy Both Want The Same Results In California’s June Gubernatorial Primary

Jeff Chiu / AP Photo

Democratic Candidate for California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a NARAL Pro-Choice California event in San Francisco, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018.

Jeff Chiu / AP Photo

There’s some fresh intrigue in the California governor’s race just days before voting begins, with a big-name endorsement on the Republican side and the first attack ad on the Democratic side.

Four Democrats and two Republicans are jockeying for the top two spots in the June 5 primary, to advance to the November general election. It’s generally thought that a moderate Democrat like Antonio Villaraigosa or John Chiang would give frontrunner Gavin Newsom a tougher battle than a Republican in deep blue California.

And Newsom himself said as much in a recent interview with Capital Public Radio: “I obviously, would love to see a Republican in this race, if I’m in it. That would be ideal.”

So even though Newsom is leading in the polls, his campaign launched the first attack ad of the race Friday.

And while it looks like he’s just attacking his leading Republican opponent, John Cox, the effect will be to introduce GOP voters to the San Diego businessman, who’s competing for votes with Assemblyman Travis Allen. Neither of the two Republicans are particularly well known, so Newsom’s ad will boost voters’ familiarity with Cox.

Ironically, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy shares the same goal as Newsom. He’s worried that if Republicans are shut out of the November runoff, GOP voters would be less likely to vote this fall — which could cost some of his congressional colleagues their seats and shift control of the House to the Democrats.

So, McCarthy is throwing his support behind Cox in hopes that Republicans coalesce enough to push him into second place. He endorsed Cox Thursday, as did Reps. Devin Nunes, Jeff Denham and Ken Calvert.

The timing of those endorsements is noteworthy: The California Republican Party holds its own endorsement votes at this weekend’s convention in San Diego, and a party stamp of approval could offer a crucial jolt to either Cox’s or Allen’s campaigns.

Vote-by-mail ballots go out Monday, and the six leading candidates debate Tuesday evening in San Jose.

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