This issue isn't specific to California, but it's in the same vein as the popular book "What's the matter with Kansas?" that posited that the middle class votes against its economic interests (read: Democrats) because Republicans use religion and societal issues as wedges.
My short answer to that is: So what? Every election requires voters to weigh a wide variety of issues. There hasn't been a candidate in the history of the world where any honest, informed voter can say that the candidated is right-on on everything (aside from the candidate himself).
Which brings us to this election and voters voting their economic interest and $4 a gallon gasoline.
Like lotteries and sin taxes, high energy prices are a tax on the poor. Ed Begley Jr. can throw out his shoulder patting himself on the back because he drives a Prius, but Begley could easily afford to drive a Hummer. Blue collar workers who need a good-sized pickup to do their work can't switch to a Prius -- and $4 a gallon gasoline can cause a dire financial hardship.
What are the two major political parties offering as a solution?
Democrats are going to make those evil automobile manufacturers make new cars that use less gas. They may be less-safe (the easiest way to make a car use less gas is to make it lighter and a new car versus a tractor-trailer, well you were going to lose anyway, but you might survive in a bigger car), but they'll solve that problem by lowering the highway speed limit to 35.
Unfortunately, for most people, those new cars Detroit puts out won't do them any good, because they won't be able to afford a new car since they've been spending $4 a gallon on gas.
Democrats are also promising pie-in-the-sky estimates of what alternative energy can accomplish. Heck, they may be right. When gasoline starts costing $7 a gallon, then solar farms and wind turbines may become economical -- but that's not bringing the price down. It's just at that point the price differential between the methods disappears.
In short, Democrats are all for methods to wean us off of oil -- but they are genuinely unconcerned with bringing the price down -- ever. Sen. Barack Obama said in an interview that he was dismayed that gas prices had reached $4 a gallon "this quickly," not that they reached that mark in the first place.
Republicans, on the other hand, are willing to use a scatter-gun approach. Oil? Yes. Nuclear? Yes. Solar? Yes. Ethanol? Yes. Wind turbines? Yes, especially if they ruin Teddy Kennedy's view.
This method has the advantage of creating a probability that gas prices may eventually go down -- or if not down, they won't continue to rise.
While Democrats are working exclusively on the demand side of the curve, Republicans are willing to work on both supply and demand.
So, has this translated into votes yet?
Will it? It should, but then again, people don't always vote their economic interests.
Maybe it will happen at $5 a gallon.