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Democrats target California congressman over fire prevention stances

A Democratic organization is putting six figures behind a campaign to tie California Republican Rep. Tom McC...

Posted: Aug 8, 2018 2:08 PM
Updated: Aug 8, 2018 2:08 PM

A Democratic organization is putting six figures behind a campaign to tie California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock to the wildfire currently burning in the state.

The attacks in mailers and a targeted digital ad, some of the first to turn the fire into a political issue, go as far as to argue that McClintock's policy on wildfire prevention "is so bad he might as well be lighting the fires himself."

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Red to Blue California, a Democratic independent expenditure that is focused on flipping nine congressional seats in California from Republican to Democrat in 2018, will spend close to $200,000 in the coming weeks on targeted ads accusing McClintock of voting against policy that would address deadly wildfires.

McClintock, who represents the state's 4th Congressional District, a large swath of land that includes much of the fire-prone Sierra Nevada Mountains, is being challenged by Democrat Jessica Morse in November.

McClintock rejected the attacks through a spokesman.

"As the sponsors of these ads know, the bills they referred to were omnibus spending bills in which only a tiny fraction of the funds went to firefighting," said Chris Baker, a spokesman for the Republican. "Congressman McClintock has been a leader in the House of efforts to aid forest fire prevention. These efforts include authoring a law now credited by Forest Service officials with greatly expediting fuel reduction in the Lake Tahoe Basin."

California is currently in the depths of one of the worst fire seasons on record, with the Mendocino Complex Fire -- a combination of the Ranch Fire and the River Fire -- becoming the largest fire in the state's history on Monday. While the fire is not in the area McClintock represents, his district has been rocked by fires this year, including ones that have closed down Yosemite National Park.

The ad will be promoted on Facebook to voters in the district.

"California is burning," says a narrator as images of fire and burned out houses plays. "But Republican Tom McClintock voted repeatedly against fire protection and relief."

The narrator adds: "Don't get burned by McClintock again. Vote November 6."

The digital ad, which is run by repeat congressional candidate Michael Eggman and former Rep. Mike Honda, does not mention Jessica Morse, the first time candidate and former State Department official running against McClintock.

The mailer is even more direct and mimics a matchbook with McClintock's face on it.

"McClintock Matches," reads the mailer with a picture of the congressman. "Lighting California's Wildfires since 2009."

"Career politician Tom McClintock's position on fire prevention is so bad he might as well be lighting the fires himself," reads the mailer, which knocks him for voting against funds to prevent fires and backing defunding the US Forest Service.

The ad hangs its claims on McClintock's vote against a spending bill that would have provided funds for hurricane and fire disaster relief, the congressman's opposition to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, a bill that would have provided more funding to improve fire prevention and recovery, and that he is not supporting a bipartisan bill to better fund fire prevention methods.

This is not the first time McClintock has been hit for his fire policies.

The Modesto Bee criticized him and Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in 2017 for not backing that bipartisan bill.

"The cost of fighting forest fires is already too great in money, property and lives. We need to make sure firefighters have what's needed to fight them," the board wrote. "Must we light a fire beneath McClintock and Denham to force their support for HR 2862?"

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