Republicans plan to use drought to hit Democrats in 2016 elections

Capitol Alert
May 17, 2015

By David Siders and Christopher Cadelgo

Gov. Jerry Brown, cheering the Democratic Party for successes in California in recent years – including increasing spending on education and health care – turned briefly to the “bad news” at a party gathering over the weekend.

“You can’t stay in the shower as long as you’d like to,” Brown said. “You’ve got to save some water.”

The crowd laughed.

But the reaction, over drinks and appetizers at the California Democratic Party’s annual convention that ended Sunday, belied a creeping recognition of how problematic the state’s historic drought could become for California Democrats.

“One of the things that is true, from sitting and listening to these people from around the state, they all talk about the drought,” Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist, said between meetings in Anaheim. “There is no doubt that as a state we’re coming to grips with our water issues later than would have been optimal.”

Recognizing a rare liability for the majority party, Republicans have begun more aggressively criticizing Democrats for their management of the crisis. In recent weeks, Republicans have pressed the Brown administration and Democratic lawmakers to approve more water storage facilities, while excoriating Democrats and their environmentalist allies for reduced water deliveries to protect endangered fish.

Last month, on the day Brown ordered a 25 percent reduction in urban water use, U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield said in a statement that the order was “the culmination of failed federal and state policies that have exacerbated the current drought into a man-made water crisis.”

Senate Republicans publicized a letter to Brown in which they urged the fourth-term governor to expedite bond funding for water projects, and Steve Brandau, a Fresno city councilman, bought space on a billboard on Highway 99 to issue a drought-related attack on Brown’s $68 billion high-speed rail project.


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