Editorial: The California governor’s race has its own version of Trump. Let’s not let history repeat itself

California gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen, a Republican Assemblyman from Huntington Beach, discusses the state's housing problems at a conference on March 8 in Sacramento.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Before launching his campaign for governor last year, Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) was a fairly ordinary legislator. Republican, but not in a rabble-rousing kind of way, and seemingly willing to work across the aisle to get things done. His first attention-getting legislation was a bill he co-authored in 2013 with a Democratic colleague to stop the South Coast Air Quality Management District from banning beach bonfires.

But now he’s running for governor and he’s changed. Last year, for example, when the Democratic-majority Legislature passed a bill to stop police from arresting children on charges of prostitution, he wrote an overwrought article suggesting that the state had legalized child prostitution.

Needless to say, that was not the case. The bill didn’t make it legal for an adult to have sex with a minor, and Allen knew it. It merely declared that kids who were being sold for sex should be treated as victims rather than criminals.


But Allen clearly felt that his assertion, true or not, would feed a belief about out-of-control liberals held by the “silent majority” of conservatives he thinks exists — and would motivate them to vote for him in the June 5 statewide primary. It was part of a strategy he has followed since then of tapping into fears, making false claims, demonizing certain groups of people and promising things he can’t possibly deliver. Politicians have, of course, always done such things to one degree or another — and we would never suggest that Allen is the only demagogue out there. But these days, in the aftermath of the November 2016 election, it no longer makes sense to ignore such irresponsible campaign behavior or to view it as the domain of only fringe candidates hoping desperately to get attention.

In the aftermath of the November 2016 election, it no longer makes sense to ignore such irresponsible campaign behavior.

Allen is not a fringe candidate — he’s either the top Republican in the race or the No. 2, depending on the poll — and he has no problem employing the Donald Trump playbook. Even his campaign slogan, “Take back California,” has a familiar ring. He has repeated the debunked myth of rampant voter fraud in California and he told the crowd at one Republican forum that Democrats “are going to try to steal 2018 from us.”

Other myths he propounds include his assertions that cutting taxes will somehow improve the state budget, and that when he’s governor, “every Californian will have a green lawn and take long showers.” That’s misleading and reckless, an unrealistic vision of a California that can’t possibly exist in a climate-changed state with nearly 40 million people, no matter how nostalgic voters may be for the old days.

Allen touts a California of the past, where everyone has a right to live in a single-family home with a lush lawn, where homeless people are carted off to institutions or sent on one-way bus trips out of state, where public schools are magically improved by private school vouchers, and roads are smooth and speedy even though the gas tax has been repealed.

It’s a fantasy, and Allen ought to know better.

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