Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

Reform CA Chair Carl DeMaio Talks Gas Tax, San Diego Leadership and a 2020 Mayoral Run?

Author: Jeff Powers
Created: 02 April, 2018
Updated: 21 November, 2022
6 min read

Right around April 14, the group Reform California who is leading the statewide Gas Tax Reform effort, say they will submit their signatures for the November ballot. DeMaio tells IVN San Diego the group has enough valid signatures for the initiative to make it onto the ballot.

In a revealing conversation with IVN San Diego, former City Coucilman Carl DeMaio had much to say about his statewide initiative to repeal the Gas Tax, reforming Sacramento and the chances that he might run again for Mayor in 2020.

Here are the highlights of our conversation from his Gas Tax Reform headquarters in Escondido:

Gas Tax Reform Effort


"It goes from the second highest gas tax in the nation and gives us the highest gas tax. A typical family of four is going to end up paying $779.23 per year. It's really going to hurt working families. But worse than that, it's not going to fix the roads, the politicians continually steal the money. It's not going to fixing roads, it's going to god knows what. Sometimes it goes into transit, but mainly it goes into the general fund for salaries, benefits and things that have nothing to do with transportation at all."

"The issue of fraud... is what really is offensive here. We want to make sure the gas tax gets repealed and mandate that the money we are already giving the state of California to fix our roads actually goes into doing so."

DeMaio and Reform California are focused on a three pronged solution:

  • Recall State Senator Josh Newman. Newman was the deciding vote in passing the Gas Tax. This takes 100,000 signatures. DeMaio says his team gathered them in six weeks.
  • Repeal the gas and car tax. This takes 584,000 signatures. DeMaio states his group will turn in these signatures in about two weeks.
  • If Gas Tax is repealed in November, Reform California will file an initiative mandating the existing gas tax goes directly to fixing infrastructure for state and local roads.

Thoughts on California Top-Two Primary 


"There's a lot of problems with the Top-Two primary system. But the real problem is we've got candidates running on the Republican side that are frankly indistinguishable sometimes from Democrats, so if you really want choice, why don't we offer candidates who are going to offer clear alternatives to some of the policies we have. I'm not hearing enough contrast from those candidates."

"I think choice and competition is good. I think that if you're a Democrat you should be disappointed that come November, you are only going to be given a choice between far far liberal one and far far liberal two. Our state is better when you have a competition of ideas, so I'd like to see real alternatives for how our state can be governed, Top-Two doesn't give us that and I think that is the fatal flaw of the Top-Two system."

DeMaio Pulled Papers For the 50th But Didn't Run, Why?

"We do have a problem in the 50th, we have problems in a lot of these districts where Republicans have broken trust and people wanna see a change in congress. But ultimately, I made the decision not to run because I think I can do more right now in getting this gas tax repealed and showing independents, republicans and democrats that we don't have to take the extremism in Sacramento."

"The Republican party of California have shown that are not sufficient to be a check and balance on the extremism in Sacramento. So we need a grassroot movement to be that check and balance."

Inside San Diego politics: The Bob Filner debacle


"By the time 2013 had rolled around and Bob Filner was unmasked for who he was, a lunatic, a predator, and everyone on the Democrats side knew that by the way. When they finally decided to take out their bundle of trash, I was presented with an opportunity to run for mayor, but guess what happened, Bob Filner crammed through a five year labor contract, and Tony Young (City Coucilman at the time) the day after the election filed his resignation. Tony was in my hotel room watching the returns come in and he said I can't stick around, I'm not going to work with Bob, I would have stayed if you were elected mayor. That's an example of a parternship between a Democrat and a Republican who said let's govern a city not from party label but let's govern a city based on what we can get done. Transforming services and trying to be more thoughtful for our comunities."

"Everything that we had lined up in 2012 a bipartisan coalition on the City Council, year-to-year labor contracts which would have allowed us each year to go back and see what's working and what's not, we were locked into a 5-year labor contract. It was not an exciting time."

"I'm disappointed in where the city is today. We have a homeless epidemic that's gone up 300 percent, we see our budget deficit ballooning (pension debt) because the mayor and the council did not use the tools given to them in proposition B our pension reform initiative. It is disappointing to see the apathy and dysfunction come back at city hall."

Future of Mission Valley


"It's basically like going out there and shopping for a car. Mission Valley is a perfect example of this. You had one group go behind closed doors with Mayor Faulconer and cut a deal. Backroom deal making is never good, transparency is always important. SoccerCity wrote a big check, got their signatures and told the community take it or leave it. And I've got some concerns about that deal, I don't think it's a good deal for taxpayers."


"They came out and said we're going to be a seperate group of developers and we're going to buy access to the ballot for you to give the land to us so now we have two very rich and affluent developments teams both using window dressing. One uses soccer the other uses San Diego State University and they're saying take it or leave it."

Best Case Scenario 

"Let's have them both fail and then go through a 'normal' process. That's exactly why we hire a mayor and city council right, it's why we have a land use committee. What we need to do is imagine what would we like to see done in Mission Valley. You don't get 160 acres in the middle of the 8th largest city come available all the time. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take a look at this wonderful location in San Diego and say what would we like it to be? It could mix educational facilities for SDSU with a park with housing, cause we desperately need it, but it needs to be done in a way where taxpayers say here are the values that we have for that land. Now what we want you to do is bid on it, give us (the city) your best price, give us your best plan. And open competition always gives you the best options."

Running For Mayor as Independent in 2020?

"Things have changed dramatically. When you take a look at what the unions have done by forcing elections into the general, (Measure K) by literally gaming the election system in San Diego, it's harder for independent minded people, candidates to run. I think in this system you have to run as an independent minded democrat or an independent minded republican. We (taxpayers) need more of those, we need people inside their own party saying no.  And when that happens, that's when you'll get the best reforms."

In other words, DeMaio isn't ruling out a go for 2020.