California Democrats fell far short of collecting enough signatures to prevent a recall election of state Sen. Josh Newman, a vulnerable Democrat targeted by Republicans over his vote to increase the gas tax.
Under a rule change rushed through the Legislature by Democrats this year, voters who signed a petition supporting a recall election were given a chance to remove their signatures, which Democrats argued were gathered by Republicans who used deceptive methods. Democrats needed roughly 7,000 signature withdrawals to halt the recall. They garnered just 846, the Secretary of State's office said Wednesday.
The California Department of Finance now has 30 days to estimate the costs of the recall election, including a breakdown for costs if the recall is held as a special election or on the next regularly scheduled election day, likely the June 2018 primary.
The low number of signature withdrawals represents a victory for Republicans; Democrats will lose their Senate supermajority needed to pass tax and fee increases if Newman loses the recall. In 2016 he narrowly won his seat, which represents parts of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
Democrats argued backers of the recall effort deceived voters by making them think they were signing a petition to repeal the gas tax rather than to recall Newman. Republicans said the low number of signature withdrawals is evidence that voters were not being fooled.
"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," Carl DeMaio, a Republican backing the recall effort, told the Los Angeles Times.
Newman's campaign, meanwhile, said moving ahead with the recall will be a "shameful waste of money."
"Paid political operatives abused the law and lied to voters," Newman campaign consultant Derek Humphrey said. "Now, millions of tax dollars will be wasted to redo an election the Sacramento special interests lost barely a year ago."