LOS ANGELES (AP) — An Orange County-area state senator who voted to raise gas taxes is out of a job after Tuesday’s primary election, denying Senate Democrats a supermajority for the rest of the year.
Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman will be replaced by former Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang after he was recalled for voting to raise gas taxes last year.
Primary voters also sorted through several legislative races colored by sexual harassment allegations. The election decided which candidates will square off in November for all 80 state Assembly seats and half of the 40 Senate seats. The top two vote-getters in primary races, no matter their political party affiliation, head to the November general election.
With millions of votes still to be counted, many of the races may not be decided for days.
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.
Replacing him with Chang keeps Senate Democrats below a two-thirds supermajority needed to pass tax and fee increases.
Newman narrowly won the traditionally Republican Orange County-based district in the 2016 election, and both parties saw him as vulnerable.
A Republican-backed effort to repeal the tax increase is likely to be on the November ballot, and the Newman recall election is an early test of where voters stand.
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 in a statement that the vote shows that politicians who supported the gas tax “will pay the price at the ballot box.”
Newman spokesman Derek Humphrey said in a statement that “the early numbers are not what we were hoping for,” but did not concede the loss in what he termed “an undemocratic special interest power grab.”
Even a late endorsement by former presidential candidate and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wasn’t helping Newman. Sanders recorded a 30-second Facebook ad urging voters to back Newman while praising his support for single-payer health care, education, the environment and immigrant rights.
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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