Capitol Alert

Are voters being tricked? Senator calls for probe into ‘misleading’ recall effort

Josh Newman vows to beat recall attempt: 'We are not giving this seat back'

Sen. Josh Newman arrived on stage in a bear costume at the California Democratic Convention in May, then described how surprised he was to learn his vote for a gas tax increase had prompted a recall effort. Video courtesy of California Democratic
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Sen. Josh Newman arrived on stage in a bear costume at the California Democratic Convention in May, then described how surprised he was to learn his vote for a gas tax increase had prompted a recall effort. Video courtesy of California Democratic

Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, is asking state officials to investigate his allegations that the GOP groups leading an effort to recall him are misleading Southern California voters into signing petitions to oust him from office.

Richard Rios, Newman’s attorney, claims signature gatherers are telling voters that the petition to recall Newman will stop the $52 billion gas tax recently approved by the Legislature. Rios, who works for the Sacramento firm Olson Hagel and Fishburn, alleges that the actions violate the state Elections Code, which establishes a misdemeanor offense for intentionally making false statements regarding the content of a petition.

The complaint includes images of signature gatherers sitting at tables with red signs that read “Stop the Gas Tax.” A handwritten sign in one of the pictures says “Repeal the Gas Tax!!! Sign petition today.”

The attorney also attached emails written in a response to an email blast by opponents of the recall. He says the emails are from constituents in the 29th Senate District – which encompasses parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties – asking for their names to be removed from the petition because they signed it thinking it would repeal the gas tax.

Carl DeMaio, a Republican talk radio host who initiated the recall effort, said the complaint has no merit.

“State Sen. Josh Newman is a liar and a bully who is being recalled from office because he cast the deciding vote to increase car and gas tax hikes – a point we spell out specifically in the recall petition that everyone is signing,” DeMaio said. “Newman’s false claims in this complaint are part of his larger effort to bully his constituents to stop the recall against him.”

Newman was one of 27 senators to vote yes for the gas tax. DeMaio says the “proposal would never had passed” without Newman, which he said makes him the deciding vote.

Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, is the only Democrat in the Senate who voted against the bill. Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Modesto, crossed party lines to support it.

The complaint names the Republican Party, Reform California and Carl DeMaio as responsible parties. It was filed with the state attorney general, secretary of state and district attorneys in the three counties, according to a spokesman for Newman.

The complaints were made public two days after Democrats introduced Legislation to change the recall process in a way that significantly improves Newman’s chances of surviving the effort to remove him from office. The measure extends deadlines for the election, virtually assuring that the election would be held next June, when Democratic turnout will be higher.

The Secretary of State’s Office reported that recall proponents had turned in 31,049 signatures as of last week. Proponents need 63,593 signatures by mid-October to qualify a measure for the ballot.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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