Capitol Alert

‘California is burning:’ Democratic group attacks McClintock on wildfires

It’s unknown when roads will open into Yosemite due to Ferguson Fire

Evacuation orders for the community of Wawona have been lifted but the unknown nature of the Ferguson Fire has prevented officials from reopening Yosemite National Park during its peak tourism time.
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Evacuation orders for the community of Wawona have been lifted but the unknown nature of the Ferguson Fire has prevented officials from reopening Yosemite National Park during its peak tourism time.

A Democrat-aligned political action committee is launching a six-figure ad campaign attacking Republican Rep. Tom McClintock for his position on wildfire-related spending, a crucial issue in California’s heavily forested 4th Congressional District.

The $175,000-plus campaign by Red to Blue California is yet another sign that Democrats think they have a shot at ousting McClintock in what is a traditionally Republican district that stretches from Placer County to Yosemite.

The PAC, which is led by former Democratic Congressman Mike Honda, is sending out a mailer and running a digital ad focused on wildfires, a timely topic in California. State officials declared on Monday that the Mendocino Complex Fire along the northwest coast is now the largest fire in California history. In McClintock’s 4th district, the Ferguson Fire continues to burn near Yosemite National Park, although evacuation orders were lifted Tuesday for Anderson Valley, Hall Gulch and Old Yosemite in the Greeley Hill Area.

McClintock has long argued for more aggressive efforts to clear the overgrown brush and trees clogging California’s forests, which along with the record number of dead trees provide ample tinder for fires. But he wants to do so by eliminating several layers of environmental review currently required before conducting thinning operations, as well as limiting legal challenges to such projects. That’s earned the resistance of environmental groups.

McClintock did succeed in getting language from his Lake Tahoe Restoration Act into a broader piece of legislation that Congress passed in 2016. The provision allowed certain tree clearing and other forest management projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit to circumvent lengthy environmental reviews.

Red to Blue California, however, is pointing to the five-term Republican’s opposition to congressional budget and spending bills and his support for a Republican-led federal tax overhaul last year as evidence that he is part of the problem, not the solution, when it comes to wildfires. “California is burning,” a narrator says in the digital video ad. “But Republican Tom McClintock voted repeatedly against fire protection and relief.”

McClintock, a fiscal hawk, voted against a supplemental spending bill in December 2017 to provide relief to areas struck by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria as well as victims of the 2017 wildfires in California.

He also opposed the bipartisan budget deal Congress struck in February, which included tax relief provisions for wildfire victims and other wildfire recovery funding (it did not, however, include a wildfire budgeting fix many California lawmakers had been seeking). McClintock’s office said in a release at the time that the budget agreement “abandons any pretense of fiscal responsibility.”

Forest management and other environmental issues are likely to be a key point of contention between McClintock and his Democratic challenger, Jessica Morse. Given the double-digit GOP registration advantage in the district, which includes Roseville and Placerville, McClintock remains a strong favorite to win a sixth term. State and national Democratic groups are beginning to show interest in the race, however.

In addition to Red to Blue’s involvement, the Sierra Club sent out anti-McClintock mailers in May, before California’s primary. And EMILY’s List, which donates to Democratic women who support reproductive rights, endorsed Morse last month. The group has not decided whether it will spend money to campaign on Morse’s behalf, however.

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