SACRAMENTO — Democratic Sen. Josh Newman called out his Republican colleagues Monday for what he views as an abuse of the recall process after voters removed him from office in a campaign organized by conservative talk-radio hosts.
In a defiant farewell speech on the Senate floor, the Fullerton lawmaker said Republican senators stood by silently while loopholes in the recall process were used to remove him from office. He said the recall process was intended for abuses of office or malfeasance.
"I can't imagine wanting to win so badly that I would ever do, in the pursuit of partisan advantage, what has been done here," Newman said. "It saddens me, colleagues, Republican colleagues, that despite all your nice...words, not a single one of you had the integrity, the decency or the courage to stand up and say...'this is wrong. This is an abuse of the recall process.'"
Newman was narrowly elected in 2016 in a district that had historically elected Republicans. Southern California radio hosts targeted him for recall after he backed successful legislation to raise gas taxes and vehicle fees. Their victory denies Senate Democrats a supermajority, which allows them to raise taxes without Republicans, though the gas-tax hike passed with one Republican vote, Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres.
Newman said many Republican lawmakers told him the recall wasn't personal, but he said it didn't feel that way.
"Getting someone recalled, getting someone thrown out of their job, getting someone like me who only wanted to serve, expelled — it's pretty personal," he said.
Newman said he doesn't regret the gas-tax vote but said lawmakers could have done a better job explaining it to the voters and ensuring the tax burden doesn't fall disproportionately on the working poor.
Voters in Newman's 29th Senate District supported the recall 59 percent to 41 percent in last Tuesday's election.
California Republican Party spokesman Matt Fleming pointed out that Democrats changed the rules for recall elections using a provision of last year's budget to delay the election in an effort to help Newman survive.
"The recall process, it's not pretty, so I don't blame him for being upset," Fleming said. "But the idea that it's an abuse of the process is absurd. Abuse of the process would be Democrats using the budget to try to rig the process in their favor."
It's not clear when Newman will officially hand over his office to Ling Ling Chang, a former Assemblywoman from Diamond Bar who was elected in his place. The transition is expected before lawmakers leave for summer recess on July 6, said Lizelda Lopez, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.
"He had to say what was in his heart, and that's his right as a senator," said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.