Of all the stories NOT reported by most of the media in the wake of this primary election, the most significant is the recall of Senator Newman as a result of his vote on the Gas Tax. Lots of media sources were quick to report about how “foolish” Republicans were when they were pushing the repeal of the gas tax, rather than focusing on saving their members of Congress. A waste of money, it was called. “Just another example” of the bad political judgment of Republicans.
Democrats promised the now former Senator Newman, as well as all their other members, that there would be no voter backlash from the gas tax vote. If there was, they said, they would do what it takes to save those politicians whose jobs were at stake. Proponents of the gas tax repeal wisely focused on one legislator, in one place, and showed the California and the rest of the nation, that people don’t take kindly to having their taxes raised, particularly when those who are proposing the tax increase are at once promising to waste tax money on free medical care for illegal aliens and failing to spend that same tax money on improving our transportation infrastructure. People are not stupid, and now Josh Newman is unemployed.
What, however, are the implications of that election on the state as a whole? If it was a Republican who lost his or her job because they voted against some crazy liberal, big government spending program with a pretty name, you can bet the media would be trumpeting that loss nationwide. A Democrat losing his or her job for voting for a tax increase warrants a small article in the sometimes conservative Orange County Register. And who says there’s media bias?
Democrats now have a problem. It is highly likely that the Gas Tax Repeal Initiative will be on the November ballot. Every Democrat in the Legislature voted for that tax, and now we know people really didn’t like that. If I’m John Cox, and the Republican opponent of any Democrat in the Inland Empire, San Diego, or the Central Valley, my campaign would be a one trick pony. Gas Tax, Gas Tax, Gas Tax. Newman, who won his election in a marginal district, was recalled in a landslide. He lost by 20 points. That is no small feat, particularly when faced with the millions of dollars that were spent to protect him. All that money fell short. People let Newman, and the Sacramento Democrats, know that they were not pleased, and could not be deceived. Perhaps there is a revolution occurring. Maybe the Democrats went a bridge too far. Maybe their arrogance borne from the fact that they are so close to a super-majority came back to bite them in some sensitive places. It may be too early to tell, but that one election, in that one corner of California, could be a sign.
Gavin Newsom cannot come out in favor of the repeal of the tax. He would be crucified by the Sacramento D’s. He will have to support the tax, and should be forced to do so at every turn. That should be the first question at every debate, from every Republican, in every ad, in every blog, in every commentary, on every radio program, every day from now until the election. The Democrats tied the rope, and slung it over the tree branch. Republicans should have no fear in pressing Newsom to hang himself with it.
There was no justification for the Gas Tax increase. California already has the highest gas taxes in the country, and when one adds the fact that the sales tax on gasoline is assessed on the gallonage tax on gasoline, a tax on a tax, people get really miffed. As well they should, and Republicans need not fear the issue. It could be the key, just like Proposition 13 was the key last time Jerry Brown was Governor, to a Republican revival in this state. We can only hope Republicans know how to take advantage of the issue they have been handed.