A week after voting with fellow Democrats to raise California’s gas tax, state Sen. Josh Newman was vacationing with his wife on a Caribbean island when he saw a news alert on his phone that said Republicans were targeting a lawmaker for recall over the action.
“I thought to myself: ‘Wow, somebody’s in trouble. That’s crazy.’ And then I clicked on the link, and lo and behold it was a picture of me,” the Fullerton lawmaker said. “That was obviously a jolting surprise for me, to find that I was the one person, of 81 people who voted for the same thing, who was ostensibly guilty of treason.”
In a year when Californians will pick a new governor and fill dozens of other key posts, the recall has drawn an inordinate amount of money and attention from top officials. The contest has become a surrogate battle between the state Republican and Democratic parties over whether the Democrats will regain a supermajority in the state Legislature.
Brown has campaigned for Newman, saying at a recent event at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut that “he’s at the top of the list” of good state lawmakers, and wins legislative battles for his district. He praised Newman for “his intelligence, his hard work, his experience in the military. He knows how to fight.”
The state Republican Party spent more than $800,000 to collect enough signatures to qualify the recall for the June 5 ballot. A separate question on the ballot asks voters to choose among three Democrats and three Republicans, including former GOP Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, if Newman loses his seat.
The recall campaign is headed by former San Diego City Council member Carl DeMaio, a Republican activist who noted that Newman had won election in 2016 by only 1% of the vote against Chang.
“We want to make an example of Josh Newman for his vote on car [fees] and gas-tax hikes,” DeMaio said. “He was elected with the least amount of support in 2016, and that’s why we’ve nicknamed it the ‘gazelle strategy.’ We decided to target Newman, who was the deciding vote and also was clearly the weakest member of the state Senate, for punishment.”