The voters of Southern California spoke during last week’s primary: They no longer wanted state Sen. Josh Newman to represent them in Sacramento.
One can’t help but notice the inconsistencies when it comes to swearing in new members. Two Democratic assemblymembers won special elections June 5. They’ve already been sworn into office.
What’s the difference? Those two Democrats replaced Democrats. However, Newman, a Democrat, is being replaced by a Republican.
Can you say hypocrisy in a dysfunctional Legislature?
Despite voters recalling Newman last week, he remains in office. He lashed out in a nine-minute rant on the floor Monday (June 11).
Republicans Push Newman Recall
Voters recalled Newman, who represents Senate District 29 covering Orange, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. Traditionally, Republicans have held that seat. Newman bucked tradition in 2016. The recall vote wasn’t even close—59% said “see ya.” A Republican, Ling Ling Chang, won the related special election to assume the remainder of the term.
Just because a Democrat holds a seat in a conservative area, it doesn’t give him license to vote against voters’ wishes. Case in point, the 2017 gas tax, SB 1. The bill received the minimum 27 votes needed, a two-thirds majority, to pass the Senate. That instantly put Newman in the recall crosshairs.
Among Newman’s complaints Monday was that Republicans unfairly targeted him for his vote. Republicans manipulated the system that led to his political demise, he said.
“I had $3 million spent against me in a campaign of defamatory lies,” Newman said. He noted that he was one of 27 senators, including one Republican, who supported SB 1.
That is true. Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) voted for the gas tax. The difference is, Cannella is termed out. Newman is in the middle of a four-year term. Also, notice that Cannella didn’t run for a new elected office in June.
“Somehow, I was singled out as the so-called deciding vote and targeted for a recall effort which was then put on the ballot through a highly-deceptive signature gathering campaign funded by out-of-district interests,” Newman said.
Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego councilman and Republican activist pushing for Newman’s ouster, openly stated his goals on his website:
“Think of this strategy as the ‘Gazelle Strategy.’ If you have seen Animal Planet, you know that lions hunt for food not by attacking an entire pack of gazelles at once, but targeting the weakest gazelle and taking that one gazelle out. Far more efficient and an almost guaranteed success rate.
“Our campaign to repeal the Car Tax utilizes the Gazelle Strategy. That’s why we propose to launch a Recall Campaign against State Senator Josh Newman (D-Orange County). Senator Josh Newman won by less than 1% of the vote in 2016 – and yet he betrayed his constituents by voting for the Car Tax and Gas Tax hikes. Our campaign intends to file Recall Papers in the next month against Senator Newman and collect 60,000 valid signatures to force him from office.
“After we succeed in recalling Josh Newman, Democrats will lose their Super Majority and will not be able to arbitrarily raise our taxes.”
Newman’s Vote Made the Difference in his Demise
Newman blamed Republicans for unfairly using the recall method.
“In the case of this recall, you sat idly by, fellow members. … Or in (this) case, some actively abetted this abuse. This is an abrogation of your solemn obligation.”
The fact is, voters decided, as is their constitutional right. They agreed with the recall proponents that Newman’s gas tax vote went against their values.
The diatribe continued, with Newman attacking Republicans, who by his account, told him it wasn’t personal.
“It’s pretty darn personal getting someone recalled, getting someone thrown out of their job, getting somebody like me who only wanted to serve expelled. That’s pretty personal,” Newman said.
A Blind Eye to History
The truly remarkable part about Newman’s rant was his tone-deaf recount of history.
Ten years ago, the Democrats played the same shenanigans with Jeff Denham, then a state senator. Denham voted against the 2007 budget. Senate Pro-Tem Don Peralta attempted to exact revenge with a recall effort.
The Democrats engaged in the same activities that Newman complained about.
Gather signatures under false pretenses? Check. Outside money and influence? Check.
That recall effort, however, went down in flames.
Newman had the audacity to say if the shoe was on the other foot …
“And then (Republicans) would always say some version of, you know, if the roles were reversed you would do the exact same thing to us, and I could say, no, I wouldn’t. And I think I can speak for my party. No, we wouldn’t. Not even now. It’s not worth it. It’s not why I came here in the first place. I can’t imagine wanting to win so badly that I would ever do in the pursuit of partisan advantage.”
Somehow, I don’t buy that.
“This is an abuse of the recall process. We are better than this,” Newman said. “This should not happen. I won’t let this happen.”
Well, it happened. The only question is, how much longer will Democrat leaders allow Newman to vote in Sacramento?
When Will Newman Step Aside?
Senate President Pro-Tem Toni Atkins has the power to swear-in Chang. A spokeswoman in her office says that probably will happen prior to the summer recess, which starts July 6.
According to Capital Public Radio News’ Ben Adler, the Republican caucus isn’t pushing the issue.
“I gave them a chance to complain about this yesterday and they declined,” Adler reported on Twitter.
Newman’s removal reduces the Democrats’ supermajority.
Normally, that makes a difference on votes like the gas tax. In the waning days before the summer break, such contested votes may not make the floor anyway.
Just politics as usual.