John Cox, candidate for governor, speaks at the California Republican Party Convention in San Diego.
John Cox, candidate for governor, speaks at the California Republican Party Convention in San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

Two public broadcast stations are digging into the private life of Rancho Santa Fe’s John Cox, the Republican candidate for governor.

KQED of San Francisco and KPCC of Pasadena cite divorce records in alleging that Cox bought a home for a Massachusetts girlfriend and her family while he was married to Nancy Cox and living in Illinois.

“Ms. Cox wrote … that the children told her about the other home in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and that they’d met his girlfriend when they went to visit,” said the 825-word story. “The girlfriend is not identified in court records, and it’s unclear when their relationship first began.”

Nancy Cox, in 1997 court filings, also said that John wanted to stay married with the “understanding he would continue to maintain a relationship with the other woman in Massachusetts,” said the report by Annie Gilbertson for KPCC/LAist and John Sepulvado for KQED and the California Report.

The story quoted John Cox as saying: “I’m not interested in gutter politics. I was separated from my wife. That’s all been resolved.”

In response to a Times of San Diego request for comment, Cox campaign spokeswoman Sara Lee said: “Last-minute attacks are to be expected, particularly with just three weeks to go before the election. John Cox is not going to get into a mudslinging campaign with his opponent. He’s going to continue to focus on the affordability crisis affecting millions of forgotten Californians.”

(Lee, based in Sacramento, in 2003 was a spokeswoman for Maria Shriver when her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, ran and won election as governor amid several accusations of groping women. Shriver separated from Schwarzenegger in 2011, and was divorced in 2017.)

In his governor campaign, Cox has rarely referenced a well-documented extramarital affair by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic front-runner, according to a Cox spokesman.

The spokesman said Cox addressed the Newsom affair only when asked about it in forum settings.

“Newsom admitted in 2007 to an affair with his appointments secretary, who also was married to his campaign manager,” the KQED story noted. “At the time, Newsom was separated from his first wife.”

In February, the Sacramento Bee said the Newsom affair, revealed when he was San Francisco mayor, came amid a divorce. The affair was with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, married to Newsom’s campaign manager and one of his closest aides.

“I can’t blame anyone for my part in this ugly episode,” Rippey-Tourk said.

Newsom in February was asked about his relationship with Rippey during an onstage interview sponsored by Politico and the University of San Francisco.

“I acknowledged it. I apologized for it. I learned an enormous amount from it,’’ Newsom said. “We were very open and honest about it.”

Asked whether he had any other sexual indiscretions in his past, Newsom responded, “Absolutely not.”

A recent Associated Press profile of the businessman said: “Cox … married his current wife, Sarah, bought a house in California in 2007 and moved to the state full time in 2011. … Cox has three daughters from his first marriage and one from his second.”

Cox campaign cease-and-desist letter regarding TV ad on Newsom and Villaraigosa affairs. (PDF)

In April, an independent expenditure committee supporting businessman Cox called Restore Our Values ran a 30-second commercial that showed Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Roger Ailes and others accused of sexual misconduct.

“Powerful men are finally being held to account and punished for inappropriate sexual conduct with women over whom they exercised power,” said the ad’s narrator.

“Gavin Newsom had such a sexual relationship with a woman on his mayoral staff. Antonio Villaraigosa did the same with a reporter assigned to cover him. Newsom and Villaraigosa think the rules shouldn’t apply to them. They don’t want punishment — they want a promotion.”

The kicker: “Californians deserve better: John Cox for governor,” said a San Francisco Chronicle report.

Cox spokeswoman Lee said Thursday night: “It is important to note that when an independent expenditure committee aired commercials making these kind of personal attacks on Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa in the primary, the Cox campaign filed cease-and-desist letters with the television stations carrying the ad to try to keep them off the air. Voters are looking for solutions, not gutter divisive politics as usual.”

Story updated at 11 p.m. Oct. 18, 2018