Capitol Alert

A conservative lawmaker is running for California governor

Travis Allen, a conservative assemblyman from Orange County, said Thursday that he plans to enter next year’s contest for California governor.

Allen, who announced his intentions to his large social media following, could pair his uphill candidacy with his existing proposal to repeal the recently signed $52 billion vehicle tax and fee package designed to pay for the state’s aging roads and transportation projects.

“I’ve seen our taxes increase to be among the highest in the nation,” Allen said in his announcement, where he also bemoaned the rise in crime and general expansion of state government bureaucracy.

In an interview, he hammered away at Democrats for their support of sanctuary cities that shield unauthorized immigrants, a universal, government-run health care system and the April gas tax increase that required nearly $1 billion in district-specific projects to win over uncertain colleagues.

“The California Democratic Party has offered solutions that don’t work and has increasingly become socialist in its nature, leaving Reagan Democrats and blue collar Californians far behind. Californians are looking for something different.

“If anyone has taken the time to look at my voting record, they’ll find that I am anything but part of the political establishment in California,” Allen added. “I am all in. The people of California deserve nothing less. The people of California deserve a governor who will actually listen to them ... and not to the public-sector union bosses.”

Elected to the Legislature in 2012, the Huntington Beach Republican has been hinting at a bigger platform for months, repeatedly pillorying Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to the likes of Fox News’ Bill O'Reilly and using frequent speeches in the Assembly to draw sharp contrasts with the state’s dominant political party. He said he’s “100 percent confident” the gas tax repeal will qualify for the ballot.

In December, Allen made a national splash with a controversial opinion piece in the Washington Examiner that ran under the headline “California Democrats legalize child prostitution.” “Beginning on Jan. 1, prostitution by minors will be legal in California,” Allen wrote, arguing that when government decriminalizes something, they legalize it.

Fact checkers, however, deemed the claim false, noting that while the law decriminalizes prostitution for minors by barring officers from arresting people under 18 for soliciting sex or loitering with intent to commit prostitution, those soliciting the sex and those arranging the clients can still be charged with crimes.

Allen said he stands behind his position. “When I saw that, I thought it was evil,” he said.

Allen would join Republican businessman John Cox to run as an alternative to the race’s leading Democrats, including front-runner Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Treasurer John Chiang and former state schools chief Delaine Eastin.

Early polls show that if GOP voters don’t coalesce behind a standard-bearer, they risk splitting the vote and allowing two Democrats to advance to the November 2018 runoff. Allen said he’s not worried about that, saying Cox has “interesting ideas” but lacks real policy depth.

While Cox has seeded his campaign with $3 million of his own money, Allen’s campaign strategist said his candidate’s statewide gas tax repeal effort would boost his notoriety. Allen said he has reserved 11 million paid mailers as a strategy for reaching voters, and noted that he’s built the largest social media reach of any elected Republican in California.

The Allen-Cox skirmish could mirror the internecine fight between Republican gubernatorial candidates Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari three years ago. Kashkari, a favorite of the GOP’s establishment wing, squeaked past Donnelly in the primary but finished well behind Brown. Kashkari spent more than $7 million, with just $4 million coming from donors and the rest from his personal accounts.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago