Capitol Alert

Recall threat turned Josh Newman into California Legislature’s all-star fundraiser

Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, during the Senate session on June 15, 2017.
Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, during the Senate session on June 15, 2017.

There's nothing like a recall threat to vault a legislator into the top fundraising ranks.

State Sen. Josh Newman has spent only eight months as an elected official, but his campaign cash during the first half of 2017 topped all California lawmakers, according to state disclosures filed last week.

The Fullerton Democrat, who took office in December after an upset victory in a Republican-leaning district, reported raising more than $1.6 million during the first six months of the year.

Newman's fundraising got off to a slow start, with about $60,000 in itemized contributions through March. Then came his April 6 vote to help pass Senate Bill 1, the major road-funding package that will increase fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, and the launch of a Republican-led effort to oust him.

Donations picked up noticeably. More than $1.1 million arrived in June, as the California Democratic Party, public-employee unions, building trades and other allies rallied to Newman’s side. His anti-recall committee, which is not covered by candidate contribution limits, collected more than $974,000 in itemized donations that month.

Other lawmakers in the fundraising top ten during the first half of 2017 were: Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles; Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Azusa; Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond; Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount; Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley; Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton; Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda; Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica; and Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Riverside.

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SANCTUARY STRUGGLE: After getting off to a fast start this legislative session, de León’s push to make California a “sanctuary state” faces an uncertain future. Since passing the Senate in early April with the support of a Democratic supermajority, the controversial Senate Bill 54, which would prohibit California police agencies from using their resources to assist federal immigration authorities, has inched through the Assembly under intense opposition from law enforcement groups and the threatened loss of federal funding. Legislators who are hesitant on the measure may feel their feet growing even colder after Gov. Jerry Brown expressed his own doubts about the proposal over the weekend; without offering specifics, Brown, who rarely weighs in on bills before they reach his desk, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would like to see further changes to SB 54, which was already amended to exclude immigrants convicted of violent crimes. The California State Sheriffs’ Association is trying to keep up the pressure before the Legislature returns from summer recess later this month for the final weeks of session. The organization is holding a teleconference at 10 a.m. to discuss its ongoing concerns with the measure.

WORTH REPEATING: “We have to rise above some of our most cherished ideological inclinations and find a common basis.” - Brown, assessing what his fellow Democrats must do to gain power nationally

DÉTENTE: A four-year-long battle over the accreditation process for California community colleges has been resolved. The California Federation of Teachers, which represents faculty members, announced Monday a settlement in its 2013 lawsuit against the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, stemming from a vote to strip City College of San Francisco of its accreditation. That decision, the result of governance and financial problems, put the state’s largest community college on the precipice of closure and ignited a political firestorm. City College supporters sought a state audit, which slammed the agency for acting inconsistently and without transparency, while the governing board of the state community college system moved to find a new accreditor. City College was ultimately spared in January when it regained accreditation, but the faculty’s lawsuit, one of several related to the case, continued as the union pushed back against what it claims was a history of punitive and arbitrary actions by the accrediting commission. Under the terms of the settlement, the commission will assign more faculty members to its evaluation teams, remove student performance criteria from its assessment of faculty, and extend the timeline for colleges to check back in about compliance issues, among other changes that CFT President Joshua Pechthalt said in a statement ensure “fair accreditation practices will be the norm going forward.”

POLITICAL CHATTER: Looking for another outlet to quench your insatiable thirst for California politics? The Pacific Research Institute, the conservative San Francisco-based think tank, recently launched its own podcast, “Another Round,” hosted by senior vice president Rowena Itchon and communications director Tim Anaya. New episodes “exploring free market ideas” are available weekly on Tuesdays. The latest features an interview with Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, about state education policy.

MUST READ: Getting rid of California lawmakers’ cars actually did save some money

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff