DeMaio Threatens to Recall California Attorney General Over ‘Deceptive’ Gas-Tax Repeal Language 

Supporters say Becerra purposely tried to mislead voters

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra / Getty Images

The leading organizer of California's gas-tax repeal on Monday pledged to lead a recall effort against state attorney general Xavier Becerra for writing what he called a purposefully deceptive title for the ballot measure.

Carl DeMaio, a popular conservative radio talk show host and former San Diego city councilman, said Becerra was responsible for the language that would be printed on the ballot describing the gas-tax repeal as a proposition that "eliminates certain road repair and transportation funding."

DeMaio accused Becerra of committing intentional voter fraud by using that language, citing an independent analysis showing that after repealing the most recent 12-cent gas-tax increase, the amount of the remaining gas tax would increase road funding by $2.3 billion a year.

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"That is not an opinion. That is fact, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office," he said. "In other words, it is a lie to suggest that a ‘yes' vote on Prop 6 would in any way leave us short of funds to complete any of the road projects that are planned or underway."

"In fact, you could increase the projects by $2.3 billion," he said.

DeMaio said he filed papers with the California Secretary of State's Office to form a campaign committee for a Becerra recall effort, which would need 856,335 to qualify for a future ballot.

The recall effort would not take place, DeMaio said, if voters vote to repeal the new gas-tax and increased vehicle fees next week.

He cited previous recall success earlier this year with a successful campaign to oust state Democratic senator Josh Newman, who represented a district in Orange County, over his support for the most recent gas-tax increase. He also pointed to the 2003 recall of Democratic governor Gray Davis, which led to the election of Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and was fueled in part by Davis' push for higher gas and car fee taxes.

"These politicians have stolen our gas-tax money, and now they are trying to steal our ‘yes' vote, and for that there must be a punishment extracted," DeMaio told reporters during a press conference on the steps of the state Capitol building. "We intend to recall the attorney general, Xavier Becerra, over his attempt to defraud the voters of their ‘yes' vote on Prop. 6."

The Becerra campaign did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Becerra told the Los Angeles Times, "We are not going to respond to publicity stunts."

Unions and Democratic groups have spent at least $45 million on television ads warning that Proposition 6, the formal title for the gas-tax repeal, would defund road projects make the state's freeways more dangerous for traffic. Proponents of the repeal have raised and spent roughly $5 million by comparison.

A Survey USA online poll released last week that specifically asked likely voters if they want to repeal gas taxes enacted last year found that nearly 58 percent of likely voters planned to cast a yes vote with 28 percent opposed and 13 percent remaining undecided.

That directly counters a poll released last week that asked if likely voters support the proposition as described as an effort "to defund road repair and other transportation projects." That survey, conducted by Thomas Partners Strategies with Optimus data, showed that the no side of Prop 6 has a six-percent point lead statewide, with 42 percent saying that would vote no and 36 saying they would vote yes.

However, in Orange County the gas-tax repeal is still riding a wave of support with 52 percent supporting it, according to a recent Public Policy Institute poll.

That figure is important because Democrats are counting on flipping at least two congressional seats in Orange County to win control of the House.

Republicans are hoping that the gas-tax repeal will help boost Republican turnout in key swing districts.