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California gas-tax repeal stalls Democratic drive to flip House seats

California’s Proposition 6, the popular gas-tax repeal, is fueling the GOP’s fight to wipe out the “blue wave” threatening to engulf swing-district House Republicans in the Golden State.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a House Republican super PAC, released an ad Friday linking Democrat Katie Hill, who’s running against GOP Rep. Steve Knight in the Los Angeles County district, to the state’s 2017 tax increase on gasoline.

“When you fill up, you’re paying 12 cents more a gallon because of Sacramento’s gas tax hike,” says the ad slated to run in the Los Angeles media market. “How out of touch is Katie Hill? Hill supports radical regulations that would increase gas prices by another 60 cents.”

Those regulations refer to her support for cap-and-trade. Ms. Hill has yet to take a public position on the gas-tax repeal, although she opposes fracking and off-shore drilling, and has refused to accept “oil money.”

When Democrats made plans to flip GOP-held districts in California that went for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, they didn’t count on Proposition 6, which has placed a risky speed bump in the Democratic road to regain control of the House.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged to spend at least $ 25 million to defeat Proposition 6, enlisting the help of the state’s powerful labor unions and municipal groups, but so far the repeal is ahead in the polls.

How potent is the gas-tax issue? After the CLF ran a gas-tax ad last month against progressive Democrat Katie Porter, a protégé of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, she stunned the left by coming out against fuel taxes.

A University of California Irvine law professor, Ms. Porter is challenging Republican Rep. Mimi Walters, a strong supporter of the repeal, for the Orange County seat.

“I oppose higher gas taxes, and I won’t be afraid to take on leaders of both political parties and do what’s right for Orange County taxpayers,” said Ms. Porter in an Aug. 21 ad.

Her decision to leave the gas tax in the dust “marks the most prominent defection from the Democratic ranks yet,” according to CalMatters, but not the only one.

Democrat Josh Harder, who’s challenging Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in the Central Valley, has also come out in favor of Proposition 6, arguing that a federal infrastructure solution is needed.

After the first ad linking her to the gas tax aired last month, Ms. Hill accused Republicans of running a “false attack ad,” tweeting that, “Instead of focusing on making our lives better, the GOP is focusing on slander and it’s not going to work.”

The $ 52 billion transportation package was aimed at paying for road improvements and transit projects by raising the state excise tax on gasoline by 12 cents in the first year and the diesel tax by 20 cents, as well as vehicle registration fees.

Democrats argued that the 10-year plan is needed to repair the state’s crumbling roads and bridges, but the backlash was swift from California drivers confronted with some of the highest gas prices in the nation.

Foes of the measure, led by former San Diego City councilman Carl DeMaio, responded to the bill’s passage last year by organizing a recall election against Democratic state Sen. Josh Norman of Orange County, who cast what was described as the deciding vote.

Mr. Norman was recalled in June by a wide margin and replaced with Republican Ling Ling Chang, ending the Democratic supermajority in the state Senate.

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