Calif. Governor’s race: Travis Allen interview

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Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen represents Huntington Beach. Allen missed out on President Trump’s endorsement, but he says he still supports him and his agenda. Allen talks to us about immigration, his support for a border wall, and how he plans to work around the Democratic majorities in the California legislature.

KCRW: People are just tuning in now to this race and they may not really know that much about you, so introduce yourself.

TA: Absolutely. So, I’m a Californian born and raised I born in San Diego, grew up about five minutes from the border in a little town called Chula Vista, lived here my entire life. As a matter of fact I started managing money in ’96 as an investment adviser and I opened up my company in 2001 and I live down in Huntington Beach where I’m in the Guinness Book of World Records for riding the biggest surfboard ever built and we had 66 people on one wave at one time. But you know unfortunately I’ve had to watch my family and friends have all left the state. My parents now live on the Southern Oregon coast because they couldn’t afford to build here in California. My brother lives in Tucson, Arizona which is where Raytheon took all their jobs from Los Angeles and my best friend moved to Texas where he doubled the size of his house double the size of his business and pays no state income tax.

As for my clients they all started in California, they’re now in 22 different states around the nation. And you know, my family and friends and clients didn’t leave because something changed in our state with the weather or, you know, with the sun and the sand and the mountains and the forests. It was because the California Democrats have run the state into the ground.

I got elected in 2012. I’ve been elected the last six years, I am known as the most conservative voice in Sacramento. And after six years of fighting the California Democrats I’ve realized the only way to truly change this state to truly take back California is as the next governor of state of California, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

KCRW: OK. And you are an avid supporter of President Trump’s and voted for him, he endorsed your Republican opponent John Cox in this race last week. Why do you think he endorsed John Cox? and it’s not just the president the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy California’s most prominent Republican has also endorsed Cox.

TA: Well yes. Those are actually both intertwined. So Kevin McCarthy has a simple objective and that’s to the speaker of the house in order for him to do that he needs money and he needs to keep his 14 Congressional seats. So he took a very simple look at the race and said, you know John Cox might be a failed politician from Chicago who only moved to California in 2011 as a resident, but John Cox has put$5 million into this race so far. Despite the fact that you know Cox can’t seem to get out of that second place and certainly can’t beat me to despite spending $5 million. Kevin McCarthy said look you know he needs the money to be the speaker of the house and he wants to protect these seats. So he wanted to go with the easy bet and that’s exactly what he did and that’s exactly what he convinced the president to do. Now unfortunately the president has a track record of supporting the establishment candidates. We remember Luther Strange and many others who did not win. So although we have seen some endorsements, unfortunately that went the other way due to John Cox’s money. It’s very clear that the California Republicans are on the side of our campaign and definitely want Travis Allen to be the next governor of California. We have over 40, 000 volunteers. I am the only candidate in the race that actually voted for the president and supported the president.

KCRW: Well did you still support him even though he doesn’t support you?

TA: Oh 100 percent. Look you know I don’t fault Trump for making a mistake. I fully expect my phone to be ringing in just about two weeks here, and it will be the White House and he’ll be saying ‘look you know I made a bad call and I fully support you to be the next governor of state of California which is exactly what we’re going to do. I think what’s most important to understand here is there’s actually only one candidate in the race that’s won every race that they’ve ever run. One candidate in the race that has 40,000 volunteers up and down the state, almost half a million followers on Facebook alone. There is only one person with a track record that truly represents an agenda of putting California first, and California citizens first. And that’s exactly what I’ve done for six years in the legislature. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do to win this governor’s race.

KCRW: OK, let’s talk about immigration and crime. You support President Trump’s plan to build a border wall, you are against the state’s sanctuary law. You say it’s about keeping Californians safe, but overall crime rates have gone up a bit over the last couple of years, but in general they are still a lot lower, drastically lower than they were in the 1980s and 90s. They’re in the 1960s levels. So why do you link the two? Sanctuary state policies and increased crime?

TA: Well let’s be very clear. These are these are different subjects but they do interconnect. First let’s talk about you know securing our border and the illegal sanctuary state. I’m the only candidate in the entire race that has always believed in securing our border. And yes, of course, building a wall on our border. You know look this is very simple. This is not a revolutionary idea. When everybody leaves their house in the morning they lock their front door. When you leave your car you lock your car. So of course as a nation we have the right to secure our border and make sure we know who is coming into our country. Everybody is welcome to come in but they need to come in the front door and they need the right sort of people. So yes I’m the only candidate always believed in that. The other Republican in the race this guy by the name is John Cox has flip flopped on his support for the wall when he ran for president in 07. He said he parted company with people that wanted to build a wall. And as recently as January this year was on Univision talking to Hispanic audiences telling them that a wall might not be the best idea. So there is only one candidate in the race that believes in securing the border.

KCRW: I think everyone is in favor of securing the border but they think a wall is superfluous. So we have a border security system.

TA: That’s entirely incorrect. Look our southern border is porous in many places and I know this intimately and personally. I grew up five minutes from it in Chula Vista and I can tell you without a doubt that we do need to secure our border. And yes that does mean building a wall and it’s actually very easy to do. And it’s actually noncontroversial. It’s only been made controversial by the Democrats for some strange reason. Last I checked I think they all locked their front doors and they leave their homes too.

KCRW: But I think what people are saying is look it seems very expensive for a not very big piece of land. I mean this is a $25 billion price tag. It seems that that money could be spent better in other ways.

TA: Absolutely incorrect. Look you know what does it cost to have you know one extra violent crime because of someone coming into this country illegally that is now committing crimes here.

KCRW: So you are linking the border wall with increased crime.

TA: Well without a doubt. I mean look if you take a look at the illegal immigrant population in California and across the United States they commit crimes at a much higher rate than the rest of the population.

KCRW: That’s not true.

TA: It’s very true…

KCRW: All studies have shown that immigrants commit fewer crimes than native born Americans.

TA: Actually that’s entirely untrue and this is according to ICE data in 2015 as published in the San Diego Union Tribune. So, the story is very simple, on a whole immigrants coming to the United States may have differing levels of of violating our laws, but when you’re talking about illegal immigrants in the United States illegal immigrants have a much higher propensity to commit crimes.

KCRW: Well if you’re including crimes of crossing the border. 

TA: No no we’re talking about huger crimes like murder, crimes like kidnapping,  crimes like drug trafficking. Data shows conclusively that people who come here illegally commit crimes at higher rates than legal immigrants and than California and U.S. citizens. That’s according to official ICE data in 2015. And it’s very clear. This illegal sanctuary state is the concept that people that came here illegally, that are committing crimes while they are here, are now being sheltered with our taxpayer dollars. And this is where the media gets it wrong, because the media wants to conflate they want to try to combine legal immigration and illegal immigration and then the sanctuary state. There are three totally different things. You know the sanctuary state concept is not talking about someone’s grandmother sitting on a couch at home. It’s talking about someone who came here illegally that is committing crimes while they are here and now they’re being sheltered with our taxpayer dollars. That policy is illegal. It is dangerous. It is unconstitutional and very simply in my first 100 days in office, I’ve stated conclusively that we will gather the signatures to put it on the ballot with a special election for the people of California to reverse the illegal sanctuary state.

KCRW: I just want to go back to what you’re saying, you’re citing this ICE data in terms of increased crime committed by undocumented immigrants. There is a current peer reviewed journal called Criminology which has studied undocumented immigration since 1990 and has found that there has not been increased violent crime since then. So I’m just wondering exactly where your statistics are coming from to make the claim that undocumented immigrants are committing these crimes?

TA: So this data comes from a 2015 ICE study that was done. It was then reported in the San Diego Union Tribune and it was absolutely conclusive that illegal immigrants are are committing crimes at higher rates. And here, I have the numbers for you right here: undocumented immigrants, these are illegal immigrants only account for three point five percent of the U.S. population but account for 37 percent of federal sentences nationwide. Illegal immigrants comprise 12 percent of murder sentences 20 percent of kidnapping sentences and 16 percent of drug trafficking sentences. Think about this, illegal immigrants are they say about 7 percent of the California population but account for over 12 percent of the state’s prison population and an estimated 650 illegal immigrants that have already committed crimes are now being released from California jails into California communities every single month. These numbers are staggering and the answer is very simple. There is a right way to come to our country. It’s called our legal immigration system and it works just fine.

KCRW: OK. Let’s move on to another topic. The gas tax you’ve said that one of your first priorities if elected to office, you would end the gas tax. There is a measure on the ballot that would do that that would repeal the gas tax. Why is that priority number one for you?

TA: Job number one is cutting taxes in California overall. And very simply this is how you create the most good for the most number of people. Look, when Donald Trump cut taxes in the United States it created eight trillion dollars of wealth with the lowest unemployment on record for African-Americans and Latinos ever recorded lowest unemployment since 2000. Lowest jobless claims since the year I was born in 1973. This means that people can pay their rents, they can pay their mortgages, they can put clothes on their kids backs and food on their table. This is good in the world regards where the Republican and Democrat or don’t even care about politics. As it relates to California, Jerry Brown got elected in 2010 with a simple campaign promise of no new taxes without voter approval. Jerry Brown lied to the California people, he raised our gas tax by 12 cents per gallon, 20 cents per gallon diesel and our car registrations by up to 175 dollars per year without a vote of the people. He gave us instead a corrupted process through the legislature. He actually bribed four legislators a billion dollars of our tax money to pass this tax. He bribed one Republican that voted for this and the one Republican received 500 million dollars for his district and of that 500 million dollars, 400 million went to an extension of the High-Speed Rail.

KCRW: The argument obviously for the gas tax is that it has been 23 years since the last statewide increase that it would raise needed money – $5.2 billion a year for road and bridge repairs and mass transit. It would provide jobs for people to fix the roads. And so I guess the question is, how do you pay for all of this without raising taxes and taxes that haven’t been raised in a generation?

TA: Yeah, very simply look that statement presupposes that taxes always have to go up in California. That’s absolute nonsense.

KCRW: Well Costs go up.

TA: But but you’ve got to understand there’s a difference. I’m an economist by trade, there’s a difference between your tax rate going up and your tax revenue going up. Tax revenue in California has exploded and the tax rates have also gone at the same time. What you need to know is that tax rates can actually go down and tax revenue can go up. If you cut taxes people are more productive. And so they’ll ultimately pay more money to the government. But it’s because they’re putting more money in their pocket. Instead, what the California Democrats have done is they’ve raised our taxes unnecessarily. Let me explain. In 2010 Jerry Brown was elected in his California state budget in the general fund was $86 billion. Today California’s general fund budget is over $138 billion. That’s an increase of just in eight years over $52 billion or 50 percent. This is astronomical. This is because of Prop. 30, which was of course supposed to be temporary but now is practically permanent. And of course is because of this gas tax that we don’t need.

KCRW: Well the economy ugh got a lot better and so people are making more money especially the top earners. And so there are more tax revenues and now there’s a $9 billion surplus.

TA: Which proves my point. We do not need another tax in California. California already has plenty of money to fix our roads and expand our freeways. We just need to spend our existing money much better. And I would tell you on top of this, not only will we repeal the gas tax on day one, because it will be on your ballot in November. And the voters will repeal that, on day one. Past that we’re going to go after all of the other tax in California and we’re going to cut them as well. We’re going to cut the state’s highest in the nation income tax, the highest in the nation sales tax, and yes we’re going to cut corporate taxes well.

KCRW: OK. We have a huge housing issue, housing problem. Housing costs are stratospheric. I think you alluded to in your opening statement about people fleeing the state for cheaper places to live. As you mentioned as well a huge homeless problem, how would you get a lot more housing built quickly in California?

TA: So it’s actually very, very simple. In California the median home price is well over 50 percent the national average. It’s just expensive to live here. We have one of the highest costs of living in the states, which is why so many people are leaving our state. In order to build more houses and more apartments everything else where people can live and in order to do it quickly and at a much lower price point. We have to do all of the basic things that you would think about cut taxes, reform SEQUA, cut the excessive regulations, and cut the excessive litigation that is facing developers of properties in California.

When we take these very simple steps of making it less expensive to build homes in California and we streamline this regulatory process and we get developers out of court because are constantly being sued which holds the process up for years and years and adds thousands to tens of thousands even hundreds of thousands of dollars to our cost, people will begin building across the state of California. And we’re not just talking about you know building dense urban infill where you know people have to live in the stack in packs, you know squeezed white one on top of each other. If that’s what they want to do you know more power to you. I’ve lived in plenty of cities. That’s fine, you can live there. But we also need to build single family homes in California, homes that people actually want to live in with front yards with backyards. The state has plenty of space. We have the ability to have a housing boom in California. As the next governor of California, I’ve already committed to building over a million homes in my first four years in office.

KCRW: All right, As you noted this is a Democratic state. The legislature is Democratically controlled. If you do when, how would you work with Democrats to get your goals accomplished?

TA: So I’ve been in the California Legislature since 2012 and I have no illusions about how Sacramento works. Very simply I have a five point plan for California: cut taxes, get tough on crime, fix our roads, expand our freeways, fix our broken education, complete the California State Water Project. I’ve also pledged to reverse illegal in my first 100 days in office and finally bring Voter ID to California. I know that not one of these ideas were going to be the past for the California state legislature, which is why we will bring special ballot initiatives to the people of California directly. So you may remember Arnold Schwarzenegger did this famously. The problem was he only did it once and when he failed, we never saw him again. We need to bring ballot initiatives for the people of California in special elections over and over again until we are able to pass the needed reforms in California and actually get action. So every single one of these five points in my five point plan, we will do with a direct ballot initiative to the people of California and bypass the legislature entirely.

KCRW: So you’re saying, the legislature is unnecessary  when you’re governor?

TA: No, actually the legislature is extremely necessary, but the sort of major reforms that California needs will never be passed by the California Democrats. We must take these directly to the people of California.

KCRW: So why have elected representatives at all? Why not just do everything by ballot initiative?

TA: Well you know clearly we have a government to run and the legislature serves a very real purpose. We know we must have a balance of power in all levels of government. The problem with the California legislature is it’s entirely dominated by the Californian Democrats. So what they’ve given us are not only excessively high taxes but all of the crazy laws that we now have now in California which is why is as the next governor of California, I’ll have the ability to veto these laws that don’t make any sense for California’s. Laws like little boys little girls using the same restroom or the knowing willing transmission of AIDS to another person is no longer a felony. Now it’s just a misdemeanor. These laws don’t make any sense to Californians these laws need to be vetoed. But let’s be very clear, there is a role for the legislature. It is through the budget process. It is for you know all of these laws that need to be cleaned up in California. And I really hope to work with the Democrats in the legislature. But I have no illusions that the sort of major reforms that California needs things like cutting taxes and getting tough on crime, securing our borders and reversing illegal sanctuary state, those must go directly before the people of California. We must empower the people to truly take back California.

Note: Press Play looked for the San Diego Union Tribune article Allen cites and couldn’t find it. However, Politifact reported on a politician citing the same murder rate statistic, which lead us to data from from the federal sentencing commission, which perfectly mirrored Allen‘s numbers. They’re misleading and totally void of context.  We’ve asked his campaign to send along the article he was talking about, but haven’t gotten a response.