Katie Porter, the university professor and Democratic candidate running against Rep. Mimi Walters (R., Calif.), did not sign the ballot initiative to get a gas-tax repeal proposal on the ballot even though she vocally opposed higher gas taxes in a campaign ad.
Carl DeMaio, a conservative radio talk show host who is leading the campaign to repeal California's new gas tax, said he worked closely with Walters on the early heavy-lifting to get the nearly 1 million signatures needed to place the initiative on the ballot.
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Porter, he said, was completely absent.
"We tracked every signature on the gas-tax repeal initiative—she didn't even sign the initiative to put it on the ballot. Talk about not really wanting it," DeMaio said Wednesday evening just before hosting a rally in support of the repeal, officially known as Prop 6, in Anaheim, a city in Walters's district.
"Your opponent, Katie Porter, is now saying she's for the gas-tax repeal," he said to Walters at the rally. "But that's kind of funny because when I contacted her—not once, not twice but four times, she refused to take the call, refused to respond to the email."
Porter in August surprised DeMaio and other GOP organizers of the gas-tax repeal effort when her campaign released an ad in which she came out in opposition to the most recent 12-cent gas-tax increase. In the ad, Porter pledged to fight Gov. Gerry Brown and other Democratic powers in Sacramento over higher gas taxes the Democratic-controlled legislature passed last year.
"I oppose higher gas tax prices, and I won't be afraid to take on leaders of both political parties," she said in the ad, the first her campaign had cut during the general election season.
However, during the Democratic primary four months earlier, Porter repeatedly disparaged the GOP-led campaign to repeal the gas tax at a well-attended public townhall event May 6, the Washington Free Beacon first reported.
In her remarks at the townhall, she reaffirmed her support for those who voted in favor of the gas-tax hike and accused Walters of being "obsessed" with the gas tax.
"Mimi is all obsessed with the gas tax," Porter told voters at the event, according to an audio recording of her comments.
"I support all the people who voted for it. I support [former State senator] Josh Newman who voted for the gas tax," she said.
Voters in traditionally conservative Orange County where Porter is trying to unseat Walters recalled Newman in June over his vote in favor of the gas-tax increase.
"So, I think the gas tax is just an effort to distract people," Porter told the crowd. She argued that Walters's support for repealing the tax increase is an effort to distract from her vote on the GOP healthcare plan repealing Obamacare and her vote for the Republican-backed 2017 tax cut, which she labels a giveaway to "big billionaires" and "big corporations."
The Free Beacon this week also reported that Porter had said she would back a laundry list of far-left agenda items if elected to Congress on a document that was recently deleted from the Progressive Democrats of America's website.
Those policies include: Medicare for all, the creation of a Department of Peacebuilding, the creation of a commission to study reparation proposals for slavery, and legislation to implement a national minimum wage of $15 by 2024, among other progressive priorities.
Walters at Wednesday's gas-tax repeal rally said she strongly backs Prop 6 because served for a decade in the California state legislature and witnessed the diversion of gas-tax dollars from road projects to other Democratic priorities and the general fund.
"I have seen the abuse that the liberal legislature has done with our tax dollars, and when they passed this legislation to raise our car taxes and our gasoline tax, I just could not sit by and let it go," she said.
Walters accused Porter of being a "flip-flopper" who is now running to the right in the general after pandering to liberal national Democratic groups in the primary.
"She knew in the primary she had to go as far left as she could to get out of the primary," Walters said. "She, of course, supported the gas tax once she saw the poling and how popular it was to repeal the gas tax. … She's a total flip-flopper and you can't believe anything she says."
Southern California gas prices remain at their highest in three years, averaging $3.82 a gallon in Orange County and $3.87 a gallon in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area, according to the Auto Club of Southern California. That's nearly a $1 more than the national average of $2.91 a gallon.
Roughly 70 cents per gallon of that price is taxes, an increase of 12 cents for the latest tax increase Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democrat-controlled legislature pushed through last year.
Because of the new gas-tax hike, by 2021, many Californians will be paying close to $2 a gallon extra because of taxes, fees, and other government requirements.
A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll in late May found that 51 percent of registered voters in the state back wanted to repeal the state's new gas-tax hike and vehicle fees with 64 percent in Orange County backing the repeal.
Opponents of the repeal allied with several unions have amassed at least $43 million its spending on negative television and other efforts aimed at stopping the repeal efforts, vastly outspending the Yes efforts' $4.7 amount. The "No on Prop 6" ads warn of grave dangers to the state's roads, highways, and bridges if the gas-tax is repealed.
Supporters say the money will go to back bloated state transportation department salaries, citing "epic" levels of waste and abuse in the state's transportation system. They point to hundreds of bus drivers who make more than $100,000 and buses purchased from the Chinese at a cost of $1.7 million each when clean, natural gas buses cost $300,000 a piece by comparison.
Proponents of the repeal also complain that state Democratic officials who control the ballot language did not label Prop 6 the "gas tax repeal" on the actual ballot. Instead, the ballot says: "Prop. 6 eliminates certain road repair and transportation funding [and] requires certain fuel taxes and vehicle fees be approved by the electorate."
In the final two weeks before Election Day, opponents of the repeal have successfully shifted opinion to their side state-wide, recent polls show. The no side of Prop 6 has a six-percent point state-wide lead, 42 percent to 36 percent, according to a survey released this week by Thomas Partners Strategies (TPS) along with Optimus data.
However, in Orange County the gas-tax repeal is still riding a wave of support, with 52 percent supporting Prop 6, according to a Public Policy Institute poll released Wednesday.
Democrats are counting on flipping at least two Congressional seats in Orange County to win control of the House.
"Most experts agree, so goes Orange County, so goes the House," TPS political analyst John Thomas wrote in his weekly election newsletter about the company's polling.
Walters said her race is very close, citing personal polling showing her leading by just four percentage points, although she said she believes momentum is "on our side."
"If we lose my race, then we lose the majority in the House of Representatives, and we cannot afford to do that," she said. "What will happen is we will go backward. There will be chaos in Washington, D.C., and we won't be able to move our agenda forward."
DeMaio's state-wide bus tour promoting the gas-tax repeal will visit Orange County again on Nov. 3, just days before voters head to the polls on Tuesday.
He also plans a gas-tax repeal rally in North San Diego County Nov. 4 in the targeted district of outgoing Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), where Republican Diane Harkey is running against Democrat Mike Levin.