News & Politics

Failed California Republican candidate sued for fraud by his own strategists

San Marino businessman Cole Harris faces a lawsuit for alleged failure to pay $420,000 to consultants in his lieutenant governor bid.

credit Cole Harris for Lt. Governor Of California 2018

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Cole Harris, a private equity CEO from San Marino who came in third in the top-two primary for lieutenant governor of California, is being sued by his own strategists:

Cole Harris, who received attention for social media posts showing him posing on a yacht, in front of a private jet and with exotic cars and expensive French wine, received 17.5% of the vote in the 12-person June 5 primary. He was sued last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court by a Florida-based political consulting company, Majority Strategies, which alleges breach of contract and fraud by Harris and his campaign. The lawsuit accuses Cole of failing to pay $420,000.

"Harris consistently and deliberately misrepresented his ability to raise and provide Majority Strategies with the necessary funds to run a campaign that would result in success in the California Lt. Governor primary and Harris' goal of increased name identification statewide," the lawsuit says.

Harris, who allegedly told the firm he would self-fund $10 million but only put up $2.2 million, denies breaching his agreement with Majority Strategies, insisting that "they made promises that they didn't keep," and adding, "It’s not a matter of me not wanting to pay them. It’s just a matter of I'm standing up for integrity."

The legal flap marks a final embarrassment for the California Republican Party, which is reeling so badly its midterm losses.

In 2018, the California GOP failed to win a single statewide office and didn't even get to run a candidate for Senate for the second straight year in a row. They lost 6 House seats, including the entirety of the famously conservative Reagan stronghold of Orange County, and they are on track to lose a seventh as Democrat T. J. Cox takes a late-ballot lead over incumbent GOP Rep. David Valadao in the Central Valley. In the legislature, Democrats regained their state senate supermajority, after briefly losing it in June when Republicans recalled Sen. Josh Newman over the state gas tax hike. And to add insult to injury, the GOP-backed ballot referendum to repeal that tax hike — which they had hoped would be the one statewide vote to encourage conservatives to turn out — failed by 11 points.

The midterms went so badly for the California GOP, in fact, that some of their strategists are now openly questioning whether the party is even viable in the state anymore.

So a bitter legal fight over the finances of a candidate who did not even make it to the general election is the last thing the party needs or wants to grab press.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.