California lawmaker recall sets up fall gas tax battle - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

California lawmaker recall sets up fall gas tax battle

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State Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, left, listens as lawmakers debate a recall election measure. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) State Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, left, listens as lawmakers debate a recall election measure. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California voters unseated a sitting state senator in midterm on Tuesday, denying Senate Democrats a supermajority and setting up a statewide battle this fall over a gas tax increase.

Republicans said the recall showed Democrats are vulnerable after they successfully targeted Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman's vote to raise gas taxes last year. A Republican-backed effort to repeal the tax increase is likely to be on the November ballot.

Primary voters also sorted through several legislative races shaped by sexual misconduct allegations. The election decided which candidates will face off in November for all 80 state Assembly seats and half of the 40 Senate seats.

The top two vote-getters, no matter their political party affiliation, head to the November general election. With millions of votes still to be counted, some races may not be decided for days.

RECALL ELECTION

Nearly two-thirds of voters recalled Newman, of Fullerton, over his vote last year to increase fuel and vehicle taxes to raise about $5 billion a year for road repairs.

They replaced him with former Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, keeping Senate Democrats below a two-thirds supermajority needed to pass tax and fee increases for at least the rest of the year.

But it also sets up the larger narrative as out-numbered Republicans try to further eat into Democrats' dominance going into the fall campaign.

"Recalls are never pretty, but voters overwhelmingly rejected the aggressive left-leaning direction of the Legislature," said Matt Fleming, a spokesman for the California Republican Party.

Carl DeMaio, chairman of Reform California and a sponsor of the recall, said recalling Newman "was only the first phase of our campaign."

"This November we look forward to repealing the car and gas tax hikes," he said in a statement.

Newman narrowly won the traditionally Republican Orange County-based district in the 2016 election, and both parties saw him as vulnerable.

Jason Kinney, a spokesman for Senate Democrats, did not immediately comment. Newman spokesman Derek Humphrey in a statement accused Republicans of "lying to voters" to further "an undemocratic special interest power grab."

Even a late endorsement by former presidential candidate and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders didn't help Newman. Sanders recorded a 30-second Facebook ad urging voters to back Newman.

The Newman recall campaign is the first in California since a failed effort against a Republican state senator in 2008 and the first on the state level anywhere in the nation since 2013, Joshua Spivak, author of the Recall Elections Blog, said in an email.

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