California Gov. Jerry Brown made a brief and rare campaign appearance Friday to oppose a measure that would roll back transportation investments critical to his legacy as he prepares to leave office.
Brown, a Democrat, gave a 90-second speech during a rally at a park near notoriously congested Highway 101, which links Silicon Valley to San Francisco and the Central Valley.
He said the initiative, which aims to drive Republican voters to the polls, was cooked up by “shady politicians” who want to fool Californians.
“Prop. 6 is a scheme and a scam put on the ballot by some partisans, actually, they’re acolytes of Donald Trump,” the governor said. “They don’t have the best interests of California in mind.”
Proposition 6 on Tuesday’s ballot would repeal increases in fuel taxes and vehicle fees that Brown championed last year to fund an expected $52 billion in transportation projects over a decade.
The repeal campaign is led by Republicans who say the taxes are overkill in an expensive state where families are already struggling to get by.
The political appearance by Brown is likely to be one of his last as governor before he ends his term in January, although he’s certain to come back if needed to protect other parts of a vast legacy that includes reforms in climate issues and criminal justice as well as transportation.
Brown is the only person to serve as governor of California in two separate, eight-year stretches. He first served from 1975 to 1983 and was elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014.
“The governor has raised tens of millions of dollars to defeat Proposition 6 and his war chest will certainly be needed for the battles to come,” said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown.
Westrup said Brown, who has about $15 million remaining in his campaign account, may have to fend off possible challenges to signature policy reforms such as a 2016 parole measure.
Critics also want to kill another project dear to the governor — a high-speed rail line intended to run between San Francisco and Los Angeles but has been beset by delays and legal hurdles.
In a statement issued shortly after Brown’s appearance, Proposition 6 campaign spokesman Dave McCulloch dismissed the governor’s comments as distracting, calling them “false partisan rhetoric.”
The campaign has targeted voters in car-centric Southern California, where it plans to offer $50 gas cards in a drawing for drivers.
McCulloch said anyone can sign up to win the gas cards as long as they are a registered voter — regardless of their opinion on the ballot measure.
They will find out Monday if they won, he said.
Jay Wierenga, a spokesman for the Fair Political Practices Commission, said he could not comment on specific cases but “generally speaking campaign funds can be used for any political, legislative or governmental purpose.”
The leading faces of the campaign against the measure have been firefighters and construction workers, dozens of whom attended Friday’s rally, holding signs and chanting “No on 6.” They say transportation upgrades are badly needed for jobs as well as public safety.
Brown has worked largely behind the scenes to raise money for the campaign and recorded robocalls and a television ad.
He is selective about which causes and candidates to champion and has stayed out of efforts to boost Democratic turnout in key congressional races.
He led a successful campaign in 2012 to pass higher sales and income taxes for schools. Two years later, he fronted a campaign for a big water-project bond and in 2016, led a parole-overhaul initiative.
Associated Press writer Amy Taxin in Santa Ana, California, contributed to this story.
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