After the two 2016 upset election victories that landed Josh Newman in the state Senate, the Fullerton Democrat might have expected to settle into the job and set aside campaigning until his four-year term neared an end.
Instead, Republicans filed recall papers last week and hope to gather the 63,592 required signatures in time to qualify a special election before the end of the year.
After besting favored Democrat Sukhee Kang last June, Newman squeaked out a surprise 3,185-vote win over Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang in November. The seat had been held by termed-out Republican Bob Huff and the win gave Democrats the two-thirds majority they needed to pass tax increases without a single GOP vote.
They took advantage of that on April 6, passing a $52-billion transportation package to be paid for by increased gas and vehicle registration fees. While there was one Democratic defection in the Senate, Democrats picked up the support of Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Modesto, in exchange for $500 million in projects for his district.
Conservative San Diego talk radio host Carl DeMaio led the launch of the recall effort, targeting Newman because he’s in a swing district where voters might be less accepting than voters in other districts on the idea of new taxes. If the GOP effort prevails, it would break Senate Democrats’ supermajority.
“It reeks of political cynicism and desperation,” Newman said. He noted that while recall documents call him “the deciding vote” on the bill, roll call is done in alphabetical order, meaning he was not the final vote — and that the most crucial vote was that of Republican Cannella. Newman also pointed out that he co-authored a ballot measure for next year that would ensure that all money collected would go for transportation.
“I voted for a fiscally conservative, pay-as-you-go plan that is supported by the Orange County Business Council and the California Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “We have 25 years of underfunding our infrastructure. At some point, we have to deal with it.”
If Republicans can gather the required signatures, the election would be held shortly after the Nov. 1 start of the gas tax hike.
“Perfect timing for a recall,” said Republican consultant Dave Gilliard, who worked on the successful recalls of Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 and Huntington Beach Assemblywoman Doris Allen in 1995. “Newman’s one vote attacks the pocketbooks of middle-class families in his district who are already being squeezed economically. They should not have to wait 3 more years to have their voices heard.”
While Gilliard said Senate Republicans will be putting their collective shoulder behind the effort, Democratic Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon said his side will respond in kind.
“If we cross that bridge, he’ll have more than plenty of resources needed to protect him,” de Leon told the Sacramento Bee.
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