Political Notebook

Gubernatorial candidate John Cox at Fresno DMV: ‘Help is on the way’

Republican candidate for governor John Cox, center, speaks to several women waiting in line at a Fresno Department of Motor Vehicles office in late August. A new poll has Cox within single digits against his Democratic opponent Gavin Newsom.
Republican candidate for governor John Cox, center, speaks to several women waiting in line at a Fresno Department of Motor Vehicles office in late August. A new poll has Cox within single digits against his Democratic opponent Gavin Newsom.

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox on Friday visited a north Fresno branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles, where he handed out bottled water and chatted with customers as they waited in line.

“Help is on the way,” Cox told several people after hearing their stories.

Over the past few weeks, the candidate has toured DMV locations in San Diego, Long Beach and Sacramento as he seeks to reach voters caught up in what he characterized as “a shining example of what happens in Sacramento” — likening long wait times and technical errors at the DMV to bureaucracy hangups in Sacramento.

Wait times at the DMV have been a hot issue recently in the central San Joaquin Valley. Assemblyman Jim Patterson, the former Fresno mayor, led a strong call for a statewide audit of the department, which Cox on Friday accused of using “30-year-old computers” to handle thousands of California residents’ business every day.

Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno accuses of Gov. Jerry Brown of influencing inaction from California Legislature. Patterson's request for an audit of the Department of Motor Vehicles fell one vote short.

The audit fell one vote short of approval in the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which was made up of members from the State Assembly and State Senate.

Most of the customers approached by Cox at the Blackstone Avenue DMV branch had not been there for longer than an hour — something Cox said was unusual. He said several times he had met people who had waited upwards of six to eight hours.

Customers across California are experiencing rising wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles. People at the Sacramento South field office on July 26, 2018 were particularly frustrated.

One man told Cox he had been waiting an hour. His wallet had been stolen the night before, he told Cox. Before moving to California, he had lived in Idaho, where replacing a license “took 10 minutes in and out.”

Austin Mullen told Cox he had been waiting since 9 a.m. to get his motorcycle license.

“It is now 1:30 p.m.,” Cox said. “That’s four and a half hours. Unacceptable.”

Mullen told The Bee he had taken his test at 10:30 a.m., but an employee was trying to square away Mullen’s paperwork with a home office in Sacramento. Mullen said he was 30 minutes late and counting for his job at a summer camp in Oakhurst.

Cox’s trip through the branch lasted about 15 or 20 minutes. He then spoke to the news media prior to leaving for an event in Bakersfield.

“This state needs to be managed a lot better than it is now,” Cox said. “The politicians take care of themselves.”

“They can get a new license in a matter of seconds,” he added, in reference to a private Sacramento DMV branch usable by legislators and their staff members.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, says he refuses to use special DMV office provided to California lawmakers and staff members. He urges his colleagues to go to field offices in their district so they can be more in tune with constituents.

Cox reiterated several campaign talking points, including criticism of high-speed rail and the gas tax. When asked whether high-speed rail and projects supported by the gas tax create jobs and stimulate the economy, sentiments attributed to Cox’s opponent and Democratic frontrunner Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Cox said “intelligent spending is far more essential” to proper management.

If just spending money stimulated the economy, Cox said, the state may as well just “build roads with a spoon.”

Republican governor candidate John Cox speaks in favor of repealing the gas tax at the Capitol in Sacramento on Monday, June 18, 2018.

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