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Fighting to fill the seat of the late GOP state Sen. Dave Cox, Ted Gaines is launching ads that attack GOP rival Roger Niello for voting to increase the vehicle licensing fee last year during the budget deficit crisis.

As ominous music begins, a message in a TV ad, posted here, tells viewers in Senate District 1 that Assemblyman Niello, R-Fair Oaks, voted to increase the vehicle fee by 77 percent.

"When Roger Niello voted to raise car taxes, he cost my family $253," a woman says, standing next to an SUV with her husband and two children.

Two more people in the ad say much the same thing. All are residents of the Senate District 1, according to the Gaines campaign, which says the ad is running on cable TV in the huge district which runs from the eastern part of Sacramento County south to Mammoth Lakes and north to the Oregon border.

Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, is running in the Nov. 2 election against Niello; another Republican, Barbara Alby, a former assemblywoman; and Democrat Ken Cooley, the mayor of Rancho Cordova. If no candidate receives a majority vote, the top vote-getters of each party will compete in a Jan. 4 runoff.

Senate District 1 is a Republican stronghold in California, and both Gaines and Niello represent some of its constituents in their Assembly districts.

Niello was close to Cox, who, in his final days, gave Niello a campaign donation from his own campaign chest.

But Niello's stature with conservative Republicans dropped last year when he was one of six GOP legislators who voted to raise the vehicle tax, which had been cut, and temporarily increase income taxes.

Niello defended his vote as necessary to keep the state from sliding into fiscal chaos, and noted the budget package also included goals the GOP had long fought to get, including tax credits and breaks for business to stimulate investment.


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