Voters in Southern California's 29th Senate District will cast ballots in a rare recall election on June 5, and here's some guidance: Just say no.
That's right. Say no to recalling state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), who was legitimately elected to represent this district less than two years ago and has done nothing to merit being tossed from office in mid-term. Say no to the six people — three Republicans and three Democrats (for shame!) — hoping to profit from this abuse of the ballot box by being selected as Newman's replacement. And say a big heck no to the Republican architects of the recall election, who are using one controversial vote by Newman as a pretext for trying to terminate the Democrats' supermajority in the state Legislature before the November elections.
Recall elections are an extreme and unusual form of political decapitation, and Newman is not being targeted for anything so fundamental as committing a felony, reneging on crucial promises to voters or exhibiting unhinged or inappropriate behavior. Instead, the recall effort is ostensibly based on Newman's vote in favor of SB 1, which raised vehicle registration fees and put a 12-cents-a gallon tax on gasoline to fund a $52-billion transportation package. (Republicans are also trying to repeal the gas tax in November; that will be the subject of another editorial.)
But Newman was one of 27 senators to cast a "yes" vote, including one Republican, and all of them are equally responsible for SB 1's passage. His crime, if you can call it that, was to vote like a Democrat — which is exactly what the voters in his district should have expected he would do when they sent him to Sacramento in 2016.
No, like any bully, Republicans are picking on Newman because he is vulnerable. The first-term legislator won a narrow victory in 2016 against former Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang to replace termed-out Republican Bob Huff in this historically GOP district that encompasses parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties. He hadn't been in the job six months when conservative talk radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou on KFI-AM and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio started focusing on Newman as the weak link in the Democrats' chain of power.
The Republicans want a rematch (as does Chang, who is running again), hoping that another election will return the seat to their control. That's why both political parties have put in millions of dollars and engaged in some dirty tricks in this race. What might the voters in the district want? The instigators of this recall effort don't care.
Typically, the Editorial Board weighs in on a race only after examining the fitness of the various candidates. In this case, however, we did none of that. We disagree with the premise of the campaign and don't think any of Newman's would-be successors ought to replace him at this point. Newman won this seat fair and square in 2016 and has done nothing that justifies his ignoble removal.
In fact, Newman deserves credit for supporting SB 1. It was — and is — unpopular because it hits Californians in their wallets, but it was the responsible thing to do. The state's transportation infrastructure has been underfunded for years. Bad roads and lack of public transportation options also hit Californians in their wallets, not to mention diminishing their quality of life. But that fact seems to be conveniently left out of the gas-tax debate.
Nothing in the state's Constitution or elections code sets out criteria for recalling a legislator. California law allows any state elected official to be recalled for any reason. But that doesn't mean all recalls are appropriate. And this one is not. Vote no on the recall of Newman on June 5.