California Recall Over Gas-Tax Hike Faces Crucial Test

Backers predict effort to oust state senator will survive despite Democratic roadblocks

A customer pumps gasoline at a gas station in Mill Valley, Calif. / Getty Images

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California Republicans leading a recall effort against Democratic State Sen. Josh Newman for his vote to support the latest state gas-tax increase say they are confident the petition will succeed despite multiple Democratic efforts to derail it.

A Tuesday deadline passed for those who signed the recall petition to rescind their signatures.

The Newman camp, which argues that those gathering signatures for the recall misled voters into thinking it was a push to repeal the gas tax, this week said thousands of people planned to withdraw their names.

Carl DeMaio, a conservative San Diego talk radio host who is leading the recall effort, said the Newman camp’s claims that thousands of people are rescinding their recall-petition signatures is untrue.

Election officials determined that the recall petition had collected 66,597 signatures, more than the 63,593 needed to launch the recall effort.

DeMaio previously said Republicans had gathered 20,000 more signatures than needed, but county and state election officials verified only 66,597.

"The Democrats are full of manure—I wish I could use a stronger word," he told the Washington Free Beacon Wednesday. "They are desperate to prevent the voters from having their constitutional right to a recall election."

"They don’t want the citizens to be able to fire their politicians so they continue to change the rules, to send in bullies and frivolous lawsuits," he said. "If they don’t fear the people, then why are they illegally trying to prevent the recall election?"

DeMaio predicted that the recall effort would not only survive the Democratic roadblocks but also end up removing Newman from office.

A Newman spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

A press release on Newman’s campaign website claimed "thousands of voters who were victims of the fraudulent recall effort have already signed forms to remove their names from the misleading recall petition."

The release also quoted two voters who complained that they had thought they were signing the petition to lower their gas taxes, not push Newman out of office.

"I just can’t believe that they are trying to do this to me twice," Shawn Robison, a district voter said in the release. "First, they tricked me into signing a petition by lying to me about what it said, and now that I submitted the form to get my name back, they are suing to force me to stay on it. What does it say about your cause if you have to lie and sue to get people to support you?"

The three Southern California counties, all of which have voters within Newman’s district, face a deadline of Oct. 24 to verify those rescinding their signatures from the recall petition and hand them over to the state.

The ultimate test will come Oct. 25, when the Secretary of State’s office will determine if the petition has enough verified signatures to launch the recall.

If enough validated signatures survive, the recall election would be held shortly after Nov. 1, the start of the new gas-tax increase.

Newman won his election by a razor-thin margin against Republican Ling Ling Chang last year, a seat that has been held by termed-out Republican Bob Huff. His win handed Democrats in the state legislature a super majority, meaning Democrats can push their agenda through without any GOP support.

Newman has previously pointed out that the most crucial vote for the April 6 gas-tax increase was that of GOP State Sen. Anthony Cannella of Modesto, who he argued supported the bill in return for $500 million in projects for his district.

Newman's supporters have tried to push back against the recall effort with a "Stop the Recall" campaign of their own. Fellow Democrats in the state legislature also came to Newman's aid over the summer by passing a state law that would allow people who felt they were tricked to remove their names.

Additionally, a group of voters who say they were tricked into signing the petition filed a lawsuit Tuesday arguing that they were told the petition was aimed at repealing an increase in the state gas tax, not recalling Newman.

Those leading the recall effort recently took legal action too. Attorneys for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which is backing the recall, have filed a petition with the California Superior Court arguing that attempting to remove the signatures would violate the state’s constitution.

The court petition would require voters who believe they were misled into signing the petition to submit their signature withdrawal request personally, rather than through a third party.

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree   Email Susan | Full Bio | RSS
Susan Crabtree is a senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. She is a veteran Washington reporter who has covered the White House and Congress over the past two decades. She has written for the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, the Hill newspaper, Roll Call, and Congressional Quarterly.

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