This month's record-high gas prices continued to fuel attacks in the 7th Congressional District race today, as Rep. Dan Lungren again accused his rival of supporting policies that could drive up prices even more.
"The idea that all we need to do is raise taxes and drive down consumption is one that frankly may work with the elite in San Francisco, but it doesn't work very well with those of us in this district who have to live, to work, to take their kids to school, take their kids to soccer practice and things like that," the Gold River Republican said at a press conference at a Citrus Heights gas station today.
Lungren's attacks are based on comments Bera made on a telephone town hall held during the 2010 race between the two rivals. The Elk Grove Democrat said in response to a participant's question that increasing the gas tax to reduce use is "worth exploring." Bera says now that he has never supported such a policy.
Bera's campaign has shot back, calling attacks related to the gas tax a "hypocritical attempt to distract from Dan Lungren's record of supporting the tax himself." They cite Lungren's statement in a 1998 gubernatorial debate that the state "may need an increase in the gasoline tax for a period of time" to fund certain projects.
Lungren said today that his 1998 position reflected a "completely different time, completely different circumstances." He said he was open to asking voters to approve a short-term increase in the gas tax to fund transportation projects if the state got rid of the vehicle license fee.
"I said I could go to the people and tell them that this would be dedicated to our highway system as opposed to a vehicle license fee, which can be used for different things," he said.
The spike in California gas prices, which have dropped in recent weeks, was blamed not on national policy, but disruptions in production caused by a refinery fire in Richmond earlier this year and a more recent power outage at ExxonMobil's Torrance facility. Still, Lungren argued that proposals he has supported to expand domestic oil production could have led to lower prices overall.
This year's race between Lungren and Bera is one of the county's most competitive and costly congressional races. The congressional campaign tracking website run by University of Virginia's Center for Politics' Larry Sabato changed its assessment of the race today from "toss up" to "leans Democrat."
PHOTO CREDIT: Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, talks about gas prices at an Oct. 25 press conference at a Citrus Heights gas station. The Sacramento Bee/Torey Van Oot