California Democrats moved Monday to change the rules governing recall elections, potentially hampering the campaign to remove a Democratic state senator from office.
Under the proposal, people who sign a recall petition would have 30 days to rescind their signatures after they have been submitted to election officials. It would also give lawmakers an additional 30 days to weigh in on how much a recall election would cost. It was introduced Monday as part of a budget bill in an effort to protect Democratic Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton, who is facing a recall effort over his vote to increase the gas tax.
Democrats will lose their supermajority in the Senate if Newman is recalled.
Democrats say the changes are needed because the campaign to recall Newman has misled voters when gathering their signatures. Backers of the effort must collect more than 60,000 signatures to trigger a recall election. The leader of the recall effort calls the charges false.
"You want to recall me, that's fine," Newman said. "But do it fair and square."
The recall organizers are misleading people to believe signing the petition will reverse the gas tax, Newman said. If a special election to recall Newman occurs, the gas tax would not be on the ballot. Voters should be able to withdraw their signatures once they've been submitted to election officials, Newman said.
Carl DeMaio, the radio talk show host leading the recall campaign, denies that signature gatherers are misleading voters. The campaign has collected more than 35,000 signatures, DeMaio said, although they have not been officially verified.
DeMaio, a former San Diego city councilman, said he plans to challenge the proposed rules in court.
"This is an unconstitutional effort to strip California citizens of the right of recalling their politicians," he said. "It is a brazen abuse of power."
If the recall campaign is successful, the proposed rules could draw out the process long enough so that Newman is on the June or November ballot in 2018, rather than in a special election.
Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature. The recall rule-change proposal comes as Assembly Democrats are set to lose Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who was elected to represent Los Angeles in the U.S. Congress last week. Assembly Democrats will no longer have a vote to spare on supermajority bills once Gomez leaves for Washington.