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A state senator targeted for removal from office says his opponents are misleading voters

State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)
State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

Attorneys for a Democratic state senator targeted for possible removal from office accused the lawmaker's political opponents on Wednesday of "knowingly and willfully misleading voters" in their effort to force a special election.

Complaints were filed on behalf of state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) with the secretary of state, attorney general and local district attorneys, all seeking an investigation of the recall campaign being waged by Newman's opponents.

The complaint alleges that voter signatures are being gathered for a recall election by promoting a repeal of the upcoming increase in California's gas tax. Newman voted for the transportation plan, which is why a political campaign partly funded by the California Republican Party seeks to remove him from office before his four-year term ends in 2020.

But the political fate of Newman, a freshman lawmaker narrowly elected last November, will have no bearing on a hike in fuel taxes or the creation of a new vehicle registration fee — both features of a $52-billion transportation plan signed into law in April.

"The campaign literature, materials and other messaging clearly demonstrate an effort to persuade voters to sign a petition based on false and misleading information regarding the content of the petition," wrote Richard Rios, Newman's attorney, in the complaint.

Supporters of the recall effort have regularly posted photos on social media showing signatures gathered alongside large "Stop the car tax" signs. Some of the photos also include Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego councilman and current radio talk show host who is one of the chief supporters of the recall.

DeMaio said Newman and state Democrats have dispatched their own troops to the region in an effort to try to coerce voters to not sign the recall petition.

In an emailed statement, DeMaio said 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."

The complaints come two days after legislators unveiled a last-minute addendum to the state budget that seeks to revise state law governing recall elections. The change would likely slow down the process enough so that any recall election for Newman would be delayed to next June, where he likely would benefit from higher turnout.

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