Turns out campaigning across California with a 1,000lb bear is not a foolproof political plan.
John Cox, a candidate vying to replace Gavin Newsom in the state’s gubernatorial recall vote, is under investigation for violating a San Diego city law that bans anyone, except zoos, from bringing wild animals – including lions and tigers and bears – into the area.
The San Diego Humane Society’s law enforcement division confirmed it was conducting the investigation of Cox, who has made several appearances at lecterns with his ursine companion, Tag, wandering behind him.
The stunt has drawn condemnation from animal rights groups and state lawmakers. “Gone should be the days when wild animals were treated as toys or props,” said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, adding that “dangerous wild animals” should not be part of publicity grabs. Ben Hueso, a San Diego Democratic representative, said a 2019 law barring the use of most animals in circuses should apply, in “spirit”, to Cox’s campaign.
Cox defended the treatment of the bear. “Every care was taken to ensure Tag’s comfort and safety with the approval of several government agencies. California needs beastly change and that may ruffle some feathers of leftwing activists,” the campaign said in a statement, sticking firmly to Cox’s animal theme – he has positioned himself as the “beast” to Gavin Newsom’s “beauty” and is demanding “beastly” behavior via website, voteforthebeast.com, and his Twitter account, @beastjohncox.
Thus far, despite Tag’s involuntary endorsement, Cox’s campaign isn’t exactly a roaring success. A recent poll put him neck and neck with the former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, with support from 22% of respondents. That compares with 49% who support keeping Newsom, a Democrat, in office.