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State Sen. Ben Hueso Condemns Live Bear Stunt By Gubernatorial Hopeful John Cox

North county businessman and Republican recall candidate for California gover...

Credit: John Cox for Governor campaign

Above: North county businessman and Republican recall candidate for California governor John Cox with Tag, a Kodiak brown bear, at Miller Regional Park in Sacramento, as he begins his "Meet the Beast" bus tour May 4, 2021.

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox — a Rancho Santa Fe-based businessman — debuted his campaign to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday in Sacramento, but his political stunt involving a live bear drew heavy criticism from at least one local politician.

Cox spoke to reporters in California's capital about the need to replace Newsom, who he referred to as a "beauty," with himself, "a beast," he said. This was punctuated with a literal 1,000-pound bear lumbering and appearing disinterested in human politics behind Cox.

"The beautiful politicians have failed California," Cox said. "We need big beastly changes to save it. I'll cut taxes, make California more affordable and shake up Sacramento."

Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, expressed outrage at the stunt, claiming animal exploitation.

"I was disappointed and appalled to see gubernatorial hopeful John Cox parade a live bear to his press conference in Sacramento today," he said.

"Two years ago I introduced SB 313, which was signed into law and bans the use of wild animals in circuses. While the letter of the law pertained to circuses, the spirit of the law protected animals, such as Kodiak bears, from being used in events as props, such as Mr. Cox's publicity stunt," Hueso continued.

Senate Bill 313 was signed into law in 2019 by Newsom and protects wild or exotic animals by prohibiting any person from sponsoring, conducting, operating or participating in a circus that uses any animal other than a domestic dog, domestic cat or domesticated horse.

Judie Mancuso, the founder and CEO of the political advocacy group Social Compassion in Legislation, also had choice words for Cox.

"It was horrific to see the blatant disrespect for wildlife coming from political candidate, John Cox, today," she said. "Californians love their wildlife, and the last thing we want to see is a 1,000-pound bear dragged around the state to somehow make up for a politician's brawn that he aspires to own."

Cox claimed the bear is tame, well taken care of and would die in the wild.

"We made sure that everything about this bear is taken care of in the utmost," he said.

Cox plans to continue a six-city bus tour with the ursine this week.

Newsom is facing a possible recall election this fall — following a 30-day period allowing people to remove their signatures from recall petitions — after a concerted effort to gather signatures found at least 1.6 million. Newsom bested Cox in the 2018 gubernatorial race by nearly three million votes.

The field of Republican challengers includes former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, reality TV star and Olympic decathlete Caitlyn Jenner and former Rep. Doug Ose.

Jenner aired her first campaign video on Tuesday, a slickly produced three-minute ad in which she termed herself a "compassionate disrupter" and cast Newsom as an elitist who has presided over a general decline in the quality of life for Californians.

Jenner is scheduled to appear on Fox News host Sean Hannity's program Wednesday night in an interview conducted in Malibu.

Newsom has criticized the need for a special recall election, calling it a "waste of time" and money because the 2022 gubernatorial primary will be a few months later.

Newsom and his allies have tried to link recall supporters to former President Donald Trump, who is extremely unpopular in California.

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