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Trump who? California Republicans love electric vehicles

LOS ANGELES — Donald Trump thinks electric vehicles are anathema to the American Dream – he calls them union-busting job killers that are “all made in China.”

Someone forgot to tell California Republicans.

California Republicans live in a different reality than the majority of conservatives across the country, who have heeded Trump’s message that President Joe BidenThe embrace of electric vehicles will trigger a “bloodbath” by allowing Chinese automakers to dominate the market and eliminate American jobs. More than 70 percent of conservative voters surveyed by Gallup last year said they wouldn’t even consider buying an electric car.

Republicans in Sacramento are backing legislation aimed at improving California’s charging network and expanding state incentives for low-income car buyers. The reason is relatively simple: their voters like Teslas and other EV brands and want the state to invest in charging stations.

Their sharp break with the party’s de facto leader illustrates the potential for bipartisan buy-in as electric cars increasingly become a fixture in Americans’ daily lives. California, with the most extensive and mature EV market in the country, could be a harbinger of a less politically polarized automotive future.

“I don’t know of a single member of my caucus who is against electric vehicles,” said Diane Dixon, a Republican state Assembly member who represents Newport Beach, a right-leaning part of Orange County.

California Republicans often buck national trends as a dwindling minority in a deep blue state. But their stance on electric cars could provide auto companies and policymakers with a template for how to broaden their appeal beyond coastal enclaves.

That’s a future Biden and California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, are counting on as they pursue goals of transitioning drivers away from fossil fuels and cutting greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade.

“There aren’t enough Democrats in America,” says veteran Republican consultant and EV advocate Mike Murphy, who drives a BMW iX and has warned GOP leaders that attacks on EVs will backfire. “So if the Republicans don’t want to buy them, you’ll never get to the numbers.”

To be fair, California Republicans do not support the state’s entire EV policy. They have railed against a 2020 executive order from Newsom and regulations from state air quality officials that require all new vehicles sold to be zero-emission by 2035. But rather than let that divide hamper discussions, conservative leaders say they hope to avoid it. polarize the issue and instead offer constructive criticism.

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“Picking winners and losers in the marketplace, I don’t think that’s the proper role of government,” said Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones, who represents the San Diego region. “The California legislature and the governor have said this is the route we want to take, we have a responsibility to make sure there is some infrastructure in place to support this.”

Where Trump and California Republicans Diverge

Despite Trump’s continued popularity among California Republicans, who overwhelmingly supported him during the March primary, their elected state officials are rejecting his message on electric vehicles, which he falsely claims do not work in cold weather and only “15 minutes away.” before you have to face charges.”

They haven’t really addressed concerns raised by Trump — and Biden, who announced a 100 percent tariff on Chinese electric vehicles on Tuesday — about Chinese automakers, which currently don’t sell passenger cars in the United States.

No legislative Republicans interviewed for this story specifically criticized Trump’s EV rhetoric — instead saying they had not heard his statements or that they generally stayed out of federal politics. Instead, they drew a distinction between Sacramento and Washington DC, where conservative lawmakers are attacking Biden’s policies.

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and 18 other Republicans introduced a bill earlier this month to eliminate tax credits for personal and commercial electric vehicles and eliminate an investment credit that incentivizes the construction of EV charging stations.

California Republicans who support exactly these types of policies at the state level say they are responding to their constituents — who are trying to avoid the nation’s highest gas prices, support car-buying incentives and want to see a more robust charging network — and are trying to avoid political fights with a democratic government.

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“We’re not the same kind of caucus as we are in Washington anyway, Republicans,” Dixon said. “We are the super minority party, so we want to work across the aisle.”

EVs and bipartisanship

Some recent examples of bipartisanship: Republican Assemblymember Greg Wallis, who hails from Riverside County, just outside Los Angeles, is leading a proposal to extend the life of California’s expiring lane benefits for high-occupancy vehicles through 2027. He wrote in an analysis of the bill that access to the HOV lane “has proven to be an incentive for Californians to make the switch to ZEVs.”

“EVs like Tesla are significantly cheaper to maintain than traditional vehicles, with additional savings from lower and more stable electricity costs compared to gasoline,” Wallis said in a statement. “As families struggle to put food on the table, it is critical that we embrace technological advancements and continue to add affordable options to the way we get around.”

And a pair of Democratic-led measures that would require the California Energy Commission to provide funding to repair or replace broken chargers and target incentives to low-income, high-mileage drivers have won unanimous support through state hearings. policy committee and Republican praise. .

“I just want to thank you so much for bringing this forward and I would love to be a co-author,” GOP Assemblymember Laura Davies, who represents parts of Orange and San Diego counties, told her Democratic counterpart Phil Ting at a meeting in April. hearing on his stimulus bill.

Underlying data points to why California Republicans have a soft spot for electric vehicles. A survey published last month by the EV Politics Project, an effort by Murphy to combat conservative opposition to electric cars, found that while Republican and Democratic opinions on electric cars diverge sharply when cars are presented as a solution to the climate change, these differences between people are becoming smaller. that EV owners know.

Republican voters in California are tied to 21 percent of electric cars owned in the state, research from the Environmental Defense Fund and data firm L2 found, just below their 24 percent share of the state’s voter registration. That means hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles are controlled by Republicans in a state where nearly 2 million have been sold.

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That includes Republican lawmakers like Assemblymember Josh Hoover, who drives a Hyundai Ioniq 5.

“The more people who have friends or family who have tried them, the more people like them and the very fact that we’re selling more here in California becomes a compound interest,” Murphy said. “It starts to grow and grow and grow.”

So California?

Murphy said the proliferation of electric vehicles among California Republicans largely insulates the state from Trump’s rhetoric in the short term, but continued growth of the national market will depend on less divisive messaging from both parties. That means focusing on gas savings and incentives — which Republicans and Democrats love equally — and avoiding mandates, which give Trump and the conservative media a ready-made line of attack.

“On day one, I will immediately end Joe Biden’s insane electric vehicle mandate and there will be no ban on gasoline cars or gas trucks,” Trump told supporters at a rally in New Jersey on Saturday.

His campaign also pledges to pursue California’s electric vehicle rules, with national press secretary Karoline Leavitt saying in a March statement that the “complete and total ban on gas-powered cars and trucks in California and any other state that follows California’s rules will decimate countless jobs in the American auto sector.”

The solution to making electric cars less political is to highlight their performance, said Alexander Edwards, president of polling firm Strategic Visions, which surveys millions of new car buyers. He pointed to Tesla’s early success with the launch of a sports car in 2008, comparing it to the Nissan Leaf, which is considered a flop.

“The Leaf failed because the Leaf is natural. The Leaf is environmentally friendly. The Leaf is a Democrat,” Edwards said. “Nobody bought that vehicle.”

That’s a lesson Murphy said he’s trying to convey to automakers and lawmakers in swing states where Trump still carries weight.

“You don’t have to get Bubba to put a Save the Whales sticker next to the NRA one,” Murphy said. “Don’t let them wear your ideological label because they’re not going to and they’ll resent being pushed.”

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