Vice President Mike Pence traveled up California on Monday to raise money for endangered Republican congressional candidates and tout the Trump administration's proposal for cutting taxes.
It was the first visit to the heavily Democratic state by a member of the Trump-Pence ticket since the November election, when Democrat Hillary Clinton won the state by more than 4 million votes. Pence jetted from a Southern California fundraiser costing $2,700 for lunch at a luxury resort to Northern California for a hotel dinner in Sacramento alongside U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
In between, he toured a small manufacturing company just outside of the capital to promote a tax plan he said would ease filing for 90 percent of families and lower taxes for small businesses.
He predicted an improved economy would help Republican candidates hold their ground in California and promised quick action on tax reform. The plan would, among other things, lower the corporate tax rate to 20 percent and raise the standard deduction, Pence said.
"We're going to get this done, and we're going to get this done this year," he said, making no mention of President Donald Trump's struggle to see other priorities such as health care reform pass through Congress.
Pence deviated little from the topics at hand, making no mention at the business tour of the president's recent spat with GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee or his own decision to leave an NFL game on Sunday when players kneeled during the national anthem. He did, though, pledge federal assistance as Northern California battles deadly wire fires near the Napa and Sonoma wine countries, although it was unclear if he was promising to answer Gov. Jerry Brown's request for a federal disaster declaration.
"We'll be working very closely with Gov. Brown and California to see you through these challenging times," Pence said.
Pence arrived Sunday in Los Angeles for a three-day swing through the state, and he'll head back to Southern California on Tuesday.
California has long been a source of campaign dollars for both major political parties. Pence's money-raising efforts were aimed at boosting Republicans, who are seen as key targets in the Democrats quest to retake the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.
Democrats are targeting seven California Republicans who hold seats in districts carried by Clinton in last year's presidential campaign. Clinton trounced Trump in the strongly Democratic state, and Democrats are hoping opposition to the president's environmental, immigration and health care policies in California will drive voters to the polls next year.
Several of those competitive seats are in Orange County, once a Republican fortress where Democrats have been steadily increasing their numbers.
House members who attended the Newport Beach fundraiser included Reps. Darrell Issa, Mimi Walters, Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce, said Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel, who hosted the event.
Republicans "want to build a firewall" in California, undercutting Democratic chances of retaking the House in 2018, Steel said.
"The Democrats think that they have an opportunity in California. It's a bad bet," Steel added.
California has waged repeated battles against the Trump administration this year, particularly on immigration and the environment. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a former member of Congress, has sued over the administration's numerous attempts to roll back environmental regulations and last week Brown signed legislation that limits the ability of California police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Associated Press writer Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles contributed reporting.