California Gov. Gavin Newsom looks on during a press conference at The Unity Council on May 10, 2021 in Oakland, California.
Gov. Newsom: We thought Trumpism would go. It's just the opposite
02:35 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

A Republican candidate challenging California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the upcoming state recall election was served with a subpoena while onstage during a debate Tuesday.

Video of the awkward moment shows John Cox being served court documents during his opening remarks of the debate at the Guild Theater in Sacramento, California.

“John Cox, you’ve been served (by the) San Diego Superior Court, ordered by the judge,” a man yelled, throwing the documents onstage.

The man, identified as a private investigator by The Los Angeles Times, was asked to leave shortly after, video shows. Cox continued speaking despite the interruption.

Cox, a businessman and multimillionaire, was served with a subpoena from the San Diego Superior Court because his campaign allegedly failed to pay a political advertising firm about $100,000 for political ads, attorney’s fees and other incurred costs from Cox’s unsuccessful run for governor in 2018 against Newsom, according to the Times.

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, right, responds to a question during a debate held by the Sacramento Press Club in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. California voters have until Sept. 14 to cast their ballots to either retain Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom or to recall him and select one of the more than 40 choices on the ballot. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

CNN has reached out to the San Diego Superior Court for additional details and to Cox for comment.

Cox was participating in Tuesday’s debate alongside two other Republican hopefuls, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Rocklin Assemblyman Kevin Kiley. The four other candidates invited included Newsom, Republican front-runner Larry Elder, reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner and former US Rep. Doug Ose.

Newsom and Elder both declined participating in the debate, while Jenner did not respond, a debate moderator said.

Ose had agreed to the debate, but on Tuesday he ended his Republican recall candidacy after being treated for a heart attack on Sunday.

The hour-long debate was hosted by the Sacramento Press Club and cosponsored by the Sacramento Bee and CapRadio.

The candidates fielded questions about the Covid-19 pandemic response, housing, wildfires and drought, and the state economy and unemployment.

The California recall election is set for September 14. California voters will be asked two questions on the ballot: First, “yes” or “no” on whether they want to recall Newsom and second, to select from a list of candidates to replace him.

CNN’s Alex Rogers and Maeve Reston contributed to this report.