California Democrats lose supermajority chance after recall of senator

Orange County Republicans succeeded in ousting a Democratic state Senator Tuesday in a recall campaign over the lawmaker’s vote for the California gas tax hike. The successful recall and election of a Republican replacement has cost the Democratic Party a chance at reclaiming its supermajority in the California Legislature.

In state Senate District 29, which is largely comprised of Orange County residents, voters recalled Sen. Josh Newman by a vote of 59.5 percent to 40.5 percent. Voters simultaneously elected former assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, a Republican, to replace Newman.

Chang received 34.2 percent of the vote, easily winning a six-way race. A Democratic candidate narrowly beat out another Republican for second place in the recall election, receiving 20.1 percent of the vote.

Voters turned on Newman after he voted in favor of the gas tax increase that took effect late last year. The controversial tax increase raised the base tax on gasoline 12 cents from 18 cents per gallon to 30 cents per gallon.

A large scale effort to repeal the tax through a ballot measure is ongoing, though it is unclear if and when the initiative will appear on the state ballot. Nonetheless, the gas tax hike may become a major issue in this year’s governor’s race.

Earlier this year, California Democrats lost their supermajority in the Legislature when Sen. Tony Mendoza resigned after investigators found that he likely engaged in sexual misconduct. Democrats had the opportunity to reclaim the supermajority in an upcoming special election.

However, Tuesday’s recall election eliminated that opportunity. Now, the Democratic Party must make a gain in the general election to reclaim its supermajority in Sacramento.