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Recall effort against Sen. Josh Newman still on track after too few voters request to remove their names from petitions

State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), left, listens to debate in June on a measure to change the rules governing recall elections. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), left, listens to debate in June on a measure to change the rules governing recall elections. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Of the more than 70,600 voters who signed petitions to hold a recall vote on state Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton, only 849 asked that their signatures be withdrawn by the deadline, clearing a major hurdle for an election on whether to oust the Democratic lawmaker, officials said Tuesday.

Opponents of the recall needed to get more than 7,000 voters to withdraw their signatures to deprive supporters of the 63,593 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot, under a new system approved recently by the Democratic-controlled Legislature that slows down the process.

“Sen. Josh Newman has spent months lying to his constituents by claiming people were duped into signing the recall petition against him, and with today’s tally, he has been unmasked again as a pathological liar who is unfit to hold office," said Carl DeMaio, a Republican activist heading the recall drive. "We eagerly look forward to voters having a chance to vote him out for his lies and his decision to increase the gas tax.”

Newman won a close contest last November in a district formerly represented by a Republican. He was targeted for recall by Republican activists for voting in April for a $52-billion transportation plan that raises gas taxes and imposes a new annual vehicle fee. A successful recall would deprive Democrats of a supermajority in the Senate.

Once Secretary of State Alex Padilla certifies that there are sufficient valid signatures based on the data collected Tuesday, the new process calls for him to notify the state Department of Finance, which will be given 30 business days to prepare a cost estimate for the recall election.

Once the estimate is prepared, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee will have 30 calendar days to review and comment on the estimate, said Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Padilla.

On the following business day, the secretary of State will certify to the governor that the recall has qualified for the ballot. That could happen as late as Jan. 11 if the reviews take all the time allotted.

Gov. Jerry Brown must then call an election to be held 60 to 80 days later, or within 180 days if there is a regularly scheduled election within Senate District 29 during that period. There will be a June 2018 primary election for the Assembly districts that make up the Senate District, so Brown could consolidate the Senate recall vote with that state primary.

However, the new, longer process could end up being abandoned if supporters of the recall are successful in a lawsuit alleging the new rules are improper. At the same time, opponents of the recall have filed a lawsuit to block the recall, alleging petition circulators misled voters by saying their signatures would help repeal the gas tax.

“The underhanded methods used to qualify this recall likely represent one of the worst cases of voter fraud in California history,” said Derek Humphrey, a consultant for the Newman campaign. “Now, millions of tax dollars will be wasted to redo an election the Sacramento special interests lost barely a year ago.  It’s a shameful waste of money that voters will soundly reject and vote to keep Josh Newman fighting for them in the state Senate.”

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