California GOP turns gas prices into political issue

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Bay Area gas prices are running about 49 cents higher than they were a month ago, so the exasperation at the pump as people complain is understandable. Three gas stations at one busy San Jose intersection have nearly identical prices and their customers are shocked. "A week ago, I got it for $3.97 and now it's up to $4.49. It's like whoa, that's a lot," San Jose resident Sherri Contreras told ABC7 News.

AAA Northern California cites a power outage at a Southern California refinery last week as one reason, along with low inventories tied to this month's switchover from summer to winter gas formulas. However, the California Republican Party is turning fuel prices into a political issue. It appealed for donations to elect GOP candidates in an email blast prominently displaying pump prices.

Jacque James identifies herself as a Republican. However, she's unemployed, not able to make a contribution, and she also doesn't think either candidate can do anything about gas prices. On the other hand, the appeal resonated with Manuel Ochoa who spoke to ABC7 News while filling up his Mercedes. Asked if he would be inclined to donate over gas prices he said, "Yeah, $5."

Democrat Canissa McQueen said she wouldn't be supporting the GOP fundraising effort. "I think that they're about getting rid of certain programs and a lot of people need help. They need those programs, so no, no," she said.

Fatigue over paying close to $5 a gallon for gas may dissipate soon. AAA Northern California says the peak has been reached and prices should be dropping over the next few days, but pump price shock has left many consumers stunned and strapped. "I'm just tired of paying high prices for gas. Man, this is just ridiculous. I mean $4.49," San Jose resident Larry Jones said.

The California GOP does have a window of opportunity to make gas prices a poltical issue. Pump prices in California are the highest in the country by comparison. The lowest price is in South Carolina where a gallon of gas costs $1.22 less.

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