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Opponents of a gas-tax increase approved by the Legislature last week plan to launch a recall drive against freshman state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) for voting in favor of the tax hike as part of a plan to raise $5.2 billion annually for road and bridge repairs.
Former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, a radio talk show host, said there is statewide interest in targeting Newman with a recall drive as punishment for his vote and to deprive the Democrats of their two-thirds majority in the Senate.
“We’re about focusing in and disciplining these politicians in Sacramento who recklessly raise the gas and car tax and we're going to start out with Mr. Newman first,” DeMaio said. “We will then turn to the remaining Democrats and tell them, 'Either you repeal the car tax or we will pick off more of you.'”
DeMaio said Newman was selected for the initial effort this year in part because he won election in November in a very close contest, beating former Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang of Diamond Bar by 2,498 votes.
The senator, who authored a ballot measure that would require the new taxes and fees to be spent on transportation, defended vote without directly addressing the recall threat. "I supported the transportation package because it’s urgently needed, because its specific benefits to my district far outweigh the costs – and because I was able to secure first-of its-kind constitutional protections so this funding can’t be ever be diverted by future Legislatures, he said in a statement. "As a Senator, I’m always going to be an independent voice and base my votes on what’s best for my constituents."
DeMaio hosts an afternoon talk show on politics and current events on San Diego's KOGO-AM, which is owned by iHeartMedia. His show has 156,000 unique weekly listeners in San Diego County, according to the latest ratings book from February 2017. That does not count online listeners and those in Orange County, he said.
DeMaio said he will use skills honed in qualifying initiatives for the San Diego ballot on pension reform and other issues to collect the 63,592 signatures of registered voters in 160 days needed to qualify a Newman recall measure for the ballot. DeMaio noted he was part of a budget reform group that was critical of former Gov. Gray Davis before he was recalled in 2003.
This post was updated at 5:55 pm to include comment from Newman.