Updated at 2:56 p.m.
On Wednesday afternoon at a Mobil gas station in Burbank, California, Republican candidate for governor Neel Kashkari will hand out $25 gas vouchers to people who will destroy a toy train.
The event—headlined “Do you want a free gas card?” in a fundraising email—will protest gas taxes associated with the state’s high-speed rail, which Kashkari has labeled the “Crazy Train.” Kashkari’s competitor, three-term Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, believes that the $68 billion project connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco will be a major economic boost.
Kashkari campaign spokesperson Mary-Sarah Kinner told the San Francisco Chronicle that the event is “not a rally.”
“Neel is offering drivers who smash a toy train $25 towards a tank of gas as part of his larger effort to underscore the point that Jerry Brown is increasing the cost of gas to pay for the bullet train,” she said.
The event is legal under California state law, according to Dr. Richard L. Hasen, a leading election law expert at UC Irvine Law School. “So long as there is not payment for voting, or voting for Kashkari in particular, I do not see a legal problem,” says Hasen.
But the event is another signal that Kashkari’s campaign is sputtering six weeks before election day. Brown holds a nineteen-point lead over Kashkari, according to aggregate polling data compiled by Real Clear Politics.
It struck Dr. Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego, as “crazy” that the Kashkari campaign thinks it has to pay supporters to show up.
“If they can’t get a few activists to smash a toy train for free, I’m not sure the campaign can hope to mobilize the many millions of voters that they will need to win in November,” says Kousser.