Signatures for recall of Sen. Newman certified, election expected in June

Signatures calling for the Republican-backed recall election of state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, were certified on Friday by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, making it official that the effort has qualified for the ballot.

The date of the election will be determined by Gov. Jerry Brown, with many expecting it to coincide with June 5 primary. Democratic lawmakers tweaked state law last year to expand the time frame when such elections could be held. Beside the cost savings of running the elections together, the June 5 date would sidestep a freestanding special election in which Republicans typically turn out in greater proportions than Democrats.

The GOP targeted Newman after he voted to increase the gas tax by 12-cents-per gallon to pay for a 10-year, $52 billion roads and transportation improvement project championed by Brown, who has vowed to provide Newman with the help he needs to fend off the recall.

The freshman senator was singled out because he was considered the most vulnerable to being beaten by a Republican. His 2016 election gave Democrats a two-thirds supermajority that allowed them to raise taxes without a single GOP vote. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

Gas Tax Senator Recall Clears Legal Hurdle

As reported by the L.A. Times: 

Of the more than 70,600 voters who signed petitions to hold a recall vote on state Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton, only 849 asked that their signatures be withdrawn by the deadline, clearing a major hurdle for an election on whether to oust the Democratic lawmaker, officials said Tuesday.

Opponents of the recall needed to get more than 7,000 voters to withdraw their signatures to deprive supporters of the 63,593 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot, under a new system approved recently by the Democratic-controlled Legislature that slows down the process.

“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, he has been unmasked again as a pathological liar who is unfit to hold office,” said Carl DeMaio, a Republican activist heading the recall drive. “We eagerly look forward to voters having a chance to vote him out for his lies and his decision to increase the gas tax.”

Newman won a close contest last November in a district formerly represented by a Republican. He was targeted for recall by Republican activists for voting in April for a $52-billion transportation plan that raises gas taxes and imposes a new annual vehicle fee. A successful recall would deprive Democrats of a supermajority in the Senate. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Political fight continues over California recall rules

vote-buttonsSACRAMENTO – Most recall elections are primarily about electoral politics, as both sides duke it out with the usual broadcast ads and ground campaigns. But the burgeoning Republican effort to recall Orange County’s Democratic Sen. Josh Newman has turned into an inside-the-Capitol political fight as well as a high-profile legal battle. It could be months before the matter is debated in the context of a traditional political campaign.

Newman was elected to the Fullerton-area Senate district last November, winning by fewer than 2,500 votes in a district with nearly even voter registration between the Democratic and Republican parties. Voters there have typically sent Republicans to the Legislature, so Newman’s win was viewed as an upset. It also helped Democrats gain supermajorities in the Legislature, which lets them approve tax increases without any GOP votes.

After Newman cast a deciding vote in favor of legislation that raises the gasoline tax by 12 cents a gallon and increases vehicle license fees, former San Diego councilman Carl DeMaio, a Republican, started a campaign to boot Newman from the Senate. State Democratic leaders claim that some recall backers misled voters into thinking the recall will repeal the transportation-tax hike, so they struck back with a measure they say is about upholding the integrity of the recall process.

They passed a bill earlier this summer that retroactively changes the state’s long-standing recall-election rules by adding months to the certification timeline. It primarily gives voters 30 days to rescind their recall-petition signatures. Republicans say the new law has nothing to do with recall integrity, but is a transparent attempt to delay the election until the June 2018 primary when Democrats are expected to fare better at the polls. They accuse the Democrats of rigging the election rules to help Newman.

The governor signed Senate Bill 96 in June, but the state’s Third District Court of Appeal put portions of it on hold earlier this month, ruling that it violates the single-subject rule requiring legislation to deal with only one topic. The court, however, didn’t halt the Democratic effort to slow the recall drive. After they returned from summer recess, legislators again used a trailer bill, which is supposedly reserved for budgetary clean-up language, to quickly pass a measure to again rewrite recall election law to help Newman survive a coming vote.

Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate Bill 117 seeks “to eliminate any issue as to whether the changes to recall petition procedures made by Senate Bill 96 are enacted in violation of the single subject rule” by expressing “the intent of the Legislature to repeal those provisions and reenact them in this act, which embraces only the subject of elections.”

After the bill became law, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and several voters again filed a lawsuit against Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla and the state Legislature to strike down the new law, which they say is unconstitutional.

The original lawsuit argues that “the attempted retroactive interference in a recall process that has already commenced for the express purpose of nullifying, through unreasonable delay, petitioners’ constitutionally-vested right, violates both due process and equal protection of the law.”

The new lawsuit says the new law “should not be permitted to prohibit (the secretary of state) from performing his ministerial duty, which at this point is the simple process of signing his name to a certificate to confirm what everyone knows, and indeed what the Respondent’s office has acknowledged: that the recall petition is sufficient to compel an immediate election.”

It also contends that the law should properly have been passed on a two-thirds vote rather than as majority-vote trailer bill. “While SB117 purported to address the single-subject problem of its predecessor,” the lawsuit argues, “the new bill does so in another unconstitutional vehicle – a ‘spot-bill’ designated as ‘related to the budget in the budget bill.’” But when the budget was adopted, “SB117 was not even identified as one of the budget-related trailer bills” and “had no substantive content.”

If the court rules in the group’s favor, Democrats could still appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court. Win or lose, the Democrats appear to be getting their way – using their fearsome political muscle to delay a recall of one of their senators. It’s the rare election case where the courts have as much influence as the voters.

Steven Greenhut is a Sacramento-based journalist. Write to him at stevengreenhut@gmail.com.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Housing, Recall and Bail Reform at Top of List for California Legislature

legislatureSACRAMENTO – California’s Legislature is back from its recess and legislators kicked off the session by focusing on two highly partisan matters.

Assembly Republicans first voted to keep Chad Mayes as Republican leader, despite pressure from activists to oust him because of his vote to extend the governor’s cap-and-trade system. But Mayes said Thursday that he will step down and will be replaced by Brian Dahle, R-Bieber. Democrats pushed new legislation that would change state election rules to help Democratic Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton thwart a high-profile recall effort.

As divisive political wrangling settles down, legislators do plan to address some substantive policy issues. At the top of the list is housing. Before the recess, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democratic leadership promised to introduce a package of bills to help boost housing supply, given that escalating home prices have reached crisis levels.

Keep an eye on Senate Bill 35, which would create “a streamlined, ministerial approval process for development proponents of multi-family housing” in localities that have “not produced enough housing units to meet its regional housing needs assessment.” A ministerial approval would spare developers from a drawn-out process before planning commissions and city councils.

Local governments are opposed to the bill because it limits their authority, but backers say the measure is needed to jump-start some types of housing projects, given that local growth controls and environmental lawsuits have slowed housing construction.

The bill recently was amended to expand its application beyond big urban centers to include smaller cities and suburban locales. It’s a rare instance where Republicans and Democrats have some common ground, with the former wanting to encourage private companies to build more and the latter hoping to see the construction of high-density housing. The building industry opposes provisions that would require paying union wage scales.

There’s more controversy over two other housing-related measures. Senate Bill 2 would impose $75 to $225 fees on property transfers (excluding home sales) to fund government-subsidized affordable housing. Senate Bill 3 would put a $3 billion housing bond on the November 2018 ballot, which also would fund housing subsidies.

Another top Capitol priority is passage of Assembly Bill 1250, which essentially would ban 56 of California’s 58 counties from outsourcing certain services to private contractors. It is backed by a vast array of public-sector unions.

“While cheaper services and employee layoffs may appear to save dollars in the short term, the savings are often illusory with hidden costs that are not accounted for and diminished services or contractor failures that require cities and counties to ultimately re-hire and/or re-train staff to provide the outsourced service,” argues author Reginald Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles.

But county governments, and companies that provide myriad services to them, argue that the bill will dramatically raise costs for taxpayers and will lead to diminished services. Given increasing costs of pensions, medical care and other employee benefits, these governments say they can’t afford to hire permanent employees. This is likely to be one of the most contentious bills to make its way through the Legislature during the final month of session.

On Wednesday, activists promoting bail reform held an event on the Capitol grounds, thus highlighting a growing reform movement. Senate Bill 10 — by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys — would replace the current system of money bail with a judicial-based pre-trial system, whereby defendants are released or kept in custody based on an assessment of their flight risk and the nature of their alleged crimes.

Opponents of the current bail system argue that it’s unfair to keep people in jail, as they await trial, based solely on their ability to post a bond. Studies show that low-income people are more likely to accept plea bargains – largely so they can get out of jail and get back to work and caring for their children. The bail-bonds industry sees the legislation as an existential threat, and Republicans fear that the new system could make it tough to keep dangerous people behind bars.

Senate Bill 54, which would turn California into a so-called sanctuary state by limiting “the involvement of state and local law enforcement agencies in federal immigration enforcement,” is another hot-button issue in the waning days of the session. As the Sacramento Bee reported, the measure “sailed through the Senate and appears likely to pass the Assembly with a majority vote,” but “it’s unclear where Brown stands on the issue.”

Its passage would put the state on a collision course with the Trump administration, which has threatened to halt crime-fighting funds to cities — and presumably, states — that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials.

Legislators and activists have talked about other, less-substantive but highly controversial issues, as well. Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon promised in a speech this week to hold hearings on white supremacists in California, which he called “a cancer on our nation.” Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Draper, who had failed to qualify for the November 2016 ballot a measure to break up California into six states, filed a new measure to split up California into three states.

There’s plenty to watch as the legislative session winds down – and as political battles heat up for the 2018 election.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

More shady politics from Sacramento Democrats

State Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, left, listens as Senate President Pro Tem Kevin del Leon, D-Los Angeles, right, urges lawmakers to approve a measure to change the rules governing recall elections, Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. Democratic lawmakers approved the bill that would let people rescind their signatures from recall petitions and let lawmakers weigh in on potential costs. Newman is facing a recall campaign over his vote to increase the gas tax. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Last week, the ostensibly nonpartisan California Fair Political Practices Commission agreed to remove a long-standing campaign contribution limit so that Democrats could better fight an upcoming recall election against one of their own. And you thought things were bad in Venezuela.

Earlier this year, frustrated taxpayers in Senate District 29 initiated a recall of state Sen. Josh Newman because of his vote to impose over $5 billion annually in new taxes on cars and gasoline. Within months, over 100,000 signatures were submitted in support of ousting Newman.

In a move to bolster Newman’s chances of surviving the impending recall, the Senate Democrats last month requested that the FPPC allow elected officials to contribute more than $4,400 — the legal limit — to Sen. Newman’s recall committee. Since 2003, the FPPC has maintained that the contribution limits that apply to candidate committees during regularly scheduled elections also apply to recall elections. In fact, back in 2008, that rule was applied against a Republican legislator, Jeff Denham, when he was fighting his own recall challenge. The justification for the limit is to prevent legislative leaders from using their power and influence over special-interest contributors to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, which could then be immediately transferred to the targeted legislator.

In response to the Democrats’ request, the FPPC’s own legal counsel reviewed the limit and concluded that the current interpretation is both “well-reasoned and legally sound.” However, in a 3-1 vote, the commission ignored its attorneys’ objection and gave preliminary approval to lift the contribution limit for recall candidates.

To be clear, many question both the efficacy and the constitutionality of political contribution limits. After reasoned debate, it may well be that the California Legislature would vote to lift the cap for future elections. But it is the method and timing of the revised interpretation that stinks.

First, the Democrats are hiding behind the FPPC. If they don’t like the contribution limits, they could simply pass a reform bill, which Gov. Brown would quickly sign. But, rather than be upfront about their political agenda, they asked their cohorts at the FPPC to do their dirty work for them via a regulatory amendment.

Second, and far more troubling, is the timing. If this particular contribution limit can’t be justified as advancing the public interest — and it may not be — why repeal it in a manner so transparently intended to help one particular political party, and one particular candidate? By not delaying the effective date of the regulatory change until some not-too-distant future election cycle, the FPPC loses the moral high ground, as well as the appearance of objectivity.

The upshot of this may not mean much. Sure, with lots more Democratic money to spend in the recall election, voters in the 29th Senate District will see their mailboxes filled to brim with misleading mailers, as well as nonstop radio commercials on every station, funded by special interests. But the anger on the part of working Californians over the massive tax increase, especially in Newman’s conservative district, is palpable — and even an unlimited supply of campaign cash may not be able to stave off voter wrath.

Nonetheless, the FPPC action is unseemly and wrong. Today, when cynicism over the political process is at an all-time high at both the national level and here in California, we should be assuring citizens that our democratic processes are fair and reflective of high standards of integrity. Unfortunately, the FPPC’s sudden rule change will only reinforce distrust on the part of voters.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register.

Recall effort stymied by Sacramento

Members of the California Legislature apparently believe they have the power to change outcomes they don’t like. This is like awarding the NBA Championship to Cleveland by retroactively mandating that all of Golden State’s three point baskets be counted as only two.

While basketball is not on the minds of lawmakers, they are working to interfere with something of much greater value to average Californians, their constitutional right to recall elected officials. The Sacramento politicians think they have found a way to derail what appears to be a successful grassroots effort to recall state Sen. Josh Newman, who cast a key vote imposing a new $5.2 billion annual gas and car tax on already overburdened taxpayers.

The power of recall is a powerful tool of direct democracy. The secretary of state’s website says, “Recall is the power of the voters to remove elected officials before their terms expire. It has been a fundamental part of our governmental system since 1911 and has been used by voters to express their dissatisfaction with their elected representatives.”

In the 29th Senate District, covering parts of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, voters have been busy exercising their right to recall their tax-raising representative Josh Newman. Much to the surprise of Sacramento insiders, it looks like the campaign will succeed in gathering enough signatures to force the senator to be held accountable in a special election — already the secretary of state has instructed county registrars to begin counting the signatures. The chance that the recall of one of their own will be successful has lawmakers panicking. Their solution is to surreptitiously change the recall rules that have been in place for over a century.

500px-Capitol_Building_MG_1600_Sans_watermarkWith little notice, the Legislature amended Senate Bill 96, as it was about to pass in connection with the state budget on June 15, for the purpose of changing the rules governing the current recall effort. The purpose of the bill is shamelessly transparent: “It is the Legislature’s intent that the changes made by this act in the Elections Code apply retroactively to recalls that are pending at any stage at the time of the act’s enactment… .”

Their end game is delay. They want to delay the ultimate vote on ousting Newman for as long as possible, despite the constitutional guarantee to have the vote as quickly as possible — between 60 days and 180 days from the recall petitions having been certified.

Here’s how they do it: First, they try to delay the petition review process by requiring the county Registrars of Voters to check the validity of every signature submitted. Normally, the registrars are permitted to check a random sample of the signatures, saving both time and money.

Second, and more disturbing, is the provision buried deep in the text that states, “Notwithstanding any other law, the Secretary of State shall not certify the sufficiency of the signatures [on the recall petitions] until the Legislative Joint Budget Committee has 30 days to review and comment on the estimate [of recall costs] submitted by the Department of Finance.”

Here’s the kicker. The Department of Finance is part of the governor’s office and the bill does not require the governor’s office to prepare that analysis under any time limit. Gov. Brown, who has already come out against the recall, can simply delay that report indefinitely, which, in turn, would hold up certification of the recall effort and the ultimate election.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that those in power in Sacramento will stop at nothing to retain their power and influence, putting their own interests ahead of those of average Californians. But lawmakers who disrespect voters should be wary. Polls show that nearly 60 percent of Californians oppose the new gas tax. The higher taxes will kick in just before the beginning of next year’s election season. Voters are very likely to remember who is responsible and choose to retire multiple representatives, not just a single senator, in the regularly scheduled 2018 election.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This piece was originally published by the Orange County Register

Democrats Embrace Banana-Republic Tactics

California’s Democrats control just about everything in the state. They own every statewide constitutional office and have supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature. Heck, a news report this week revealed that Republicans have a majority of voters in only 14 of the state’s 482 cities. In other words, the majority party can pretty much do as it pleases wherever it chooses.

Yet the usually hapless Republican opposition has managed to inspire enough fear in the majority party that Democrats have resorted to the kind of cheating one would expect in some third-world backwater.

As this column has explained, one of the state’s savviest GOP officials, former San Diego councilman Carl DeMaio, is leading a recall campaign against a Democratic senator, Josh Newman, who represents a GOP-leaning district in Orange and Los Angeles counties. The recall has legs because Newman cast a deciding vote on a massive increase in the gasoline tax and the state’s vehicle-license fees — something that will cost many Californians hundreds of dollars a year. (The roads here need help, but state leaders are too busy spending money on other priorities.)

Recall advocates seem likely to succeed at picking off this freshman senator, given widespread anger — even among many Democrats — at the tax hike. Losing Newman will mean that Democrats lose their legislative supermajority. In California, supermajorities are needed to pass every manner of tax increase. Furthermore, DeMaio and company have plans to use the latest tax hike to target other vulnerable legislators in other districts.

Candidate for the US Senate Josh Newman speaks with supporters at his campaign rally Tuesday at Yardhouse in Brea.  - ADDITIONAL INFO/// - ROD VEAL/CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER - 110916.Elex.Senate29 - 11/8/16 -  Candidate for the US Senate Josh Newman hangs out at his campaign rally Tuesday at Yardhouse in Brea.

State Senator Josh Newman

So far, we’ve seen the expected pushback — a particularly ugly hit mailer by Newman backers, and a tsunami of support from the majority party and from liberal interest groups. That’s politics as usual, but the latest gambit is particularly outrageous: Legislative leaders are pushing through a bill that would change the rules of the game for recall elections to assure that Newman can survive this challenge.

“The proposed changes, which became public Monday morning, would add months to the existing timeline of certifying a recall election for the ballot,” according to a Sacramento Bee report. “The measure would virtually assure that any recall election would be held at the regularly scheduled June 5, 2018 legislative primary election.”

DeMaio and company are playing by existing rules, which would require the governor to schedule a recall election 60 to 80 days after the secretary of state certifies the number of signatures. They want to strike while the iron — or at least voter anger — is still red hot. They’re planning to hold the election shortly after gas prices go into effect. It’s a great strategy, especially given the large number of signatures recall backers already have submitted for verification.

But few expected Democrats to resort to this strategy. Senate Bill 96 and Assembly Bill 112 have been rammed through the Legislature as trailer bills — last-minute technical measures that are supposed to be reserved for budget issues. It’s a way for them to pass bills without the normal hearing process and legislative vetting.

For instance, the current analysis of S.B. 96 says that “this bill expresses the intent of the Legislature to enact statutory changes relating to the Budget Act of 2017.” But that language has been stripped out and the new, controversial non-budget-related language is inserted.

The bills will delay the signature-gathering process long enough to allow the governor to consolidate the recall election on the June primary ballot. That will give time for voter anger to smolder, and primary elections draw a much larger turnout. In this state, that means that far more Democrats will turn out, and the likelihood of the recall succeeding would be much slimmer.

Here’s the Bee again: “It would give voters who signed the petitions up to 30 days to withdraw their signatures, with county election officials reporting withdrawn signatures every 10 days. If there were still enough signatures to qualify the measure, the Department of Finance would have to issue a cost estimate for the election. Then the Joint Legislative Budget Committee would have 30 days to review and comment on the department’s cost estimate.”

The justifications for this rules-rigging are almost as outrageous as the legislation itself. Legislative leaders are upset that recall supporters tie the recall to a possible rollback in the gas-tax hike. Since when do legislators scuttle a long-established democratic process simply because they might not like the argument the other side may be using?

The idea that voters are being misled and need a chance to withdraw their signatures is condescending. I’d have more respect for the state’s majority party if its officials simply dispensed with these arguments and admitted that they simply are flexing their political muscle.

By the way, it’s a legitimate goal of the recall to get rid of Newman as a way to build political pressure for the Legislature to overturn the gas tax hike. One of the key reasons for recalling Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 was his support for a tripling of the vehicle-license fee. One of the first acts of his replacement, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a rollback of the fee hike.

“Recalls are designed to be extraordinary events in response to extraordinary circumstances — and it’s in the public’s overwhelming interest to ensure the security, integrity and legitimacy of the qualification process,” said a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, to a Los Angeles Times reporter. So now the official argument is that they don’t like the reason for the recall. And they’re doing this for the public’s interest, of course. DeMaio has threatened legal action, but this whole thing could further delay the election.

This isn’t the first time the state’s Democrats have rigged the rules for crass political purposes. Another Bee article noted that this has become rather common. For instance, it noted that in 2011 they passed a law requiring all voter-backed initiatives (as opposed to the ones put on the ballot by legislators) to appear on the November general-election ballot given that conservative-oriented initiatives have a tougher time on these high-turnout dates.

They also passed in 2012 a bill changing the order in which initiatives appear on the ballot with the obvious goal of making it more likely for the governor’s tax increase to appear first — and thus be more likely to get a “yes” vote.

And I wrote for the Spectator last week about the Assembly speaker’s decision to, apparently, just ignore the clear intent of a recently passed voter initiative that requires a 72-hour notice before a vote on all final versions of every bill. That good-government measure was supposed to stop the Legislature from sneaking through gut-and-amend bills without giving legislators, the media, and the public an opportunity to see what’s in them. The Assembly offered an alternative reading of the measure as a transparent way to get around it.

Meanwhile, I also wrote for the Spectator about how Democratic legislators are rewriting some county redistricting rules as a brazen way to flip some Republican supervisorial districts to the Democrats — something so heavy-handed that even Democratic officials in Los Angeles County objected.

Perhaps, this is what one can expect in a one-party state, but it certainly makes a mockery of the notion of democracy. But the latest ploy is particularly disturbing. If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the anti-recall measure, we can at least dispense with the niceties. At that point, it will be official and California will join the ranks of banana republics.

This piece was originally published by the American Spectator

Will Dems Try to Recall One of Their Own?

Time doesn’t heal all intra-party wounds.

Last November, unknown community activist Patty Lopez defeated a fellow Democrat, incumbent Raul Bocanegra, in the 39th Assembly District. It is — without a doubt — the biggest upset in the history of California’s Top Two primary, which was enacted by voters with Proposition 14 in 2010.

Political professionals were left stumped at how Lopez won. In the June 3 primary, Bocanegra beat Lopez by nearly 40 points, the largest margin of any Democrat vs. Democrat primary in Los Angeles County. In advance of the November election, Lopez didn’t report any expenditures or obtain a candidate statement.

It hasn’t taken long for those unresolved questions to turn into vicious smears and an organized effort to unseat Lopez.

Recall?

Before the first-term state lawmaker could introduce her first bill, angry self-described “progressives” were talking of a recall attempt.

“We cannot wait two years down the line for a chance to rectify the results of misplaced trust and uninformed voting,” Rosemary Jenkins, a Democratic activist and chair of the Northeast Valley Green Alliance, wrote at CityWatchLA.com. “By and large, worthy office-holders must pay their dues first, gaining experience through working their way up the ladder. She has not done that.”

Democrats fighting logoJenkins even branded Lopez as “functionally illiterate. … As a Progressive, I firmly believe in diversity with all its ramifications, but to be an effective legislator at any level requires fluency in the English language and the ability to communicate well.” (boldface in original)

Jenkins offered as grounds for a recall: Lopez has failed to use her taxpayer-funded office to support patronage jobs for Democratic activists.

“Speaking of the Democratic Party, she, as an elected Democrat, is obligated to hire Democrats as her staff members,” Jenkins wrote. “She has been in violation of this regulation.”

Of course, no such regulation exists and likely would be illegal. Although it’s rare, numerous California politicians have hired staffers of the opposing political party for key positions. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously hired Democrat Susan Kennedy as his chief of staff. In 2013, then-State Sen. Lou Correa, a Democrat, hired longtime GOP staffer Damon Conklin to serve as a top adviser and lead his communications outreach.

Lopez’s chief of staff is a longtime Democratic staff member, Lourdes Jimenez, who recently worked for Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego. What’s Lopez’s big staffing crime? She hired Ricardo Benitez, a Republican, to a field representative position.

“What Sacramento is finding out about the newly elected Assemblywoman is troubling, to say the least,” Mario Solis-Marich, another blogger angry with Benitez’s hiring, wrote at LAProggressive.com.

‘Smear campaign’

The pettiness and persistence of the attacks has some constituents questioning whether it’s part of a larger smear campaign.

“It appears that a very well-orchestrated smear campaign has been launched against Assemblywoman Patty Lopez disparaging her ethnic origins, gender, and abilities, while insulting the intelligence of the voters of the 39th Assembly District,” Michael Moncreiff, who lives in Rancho Tujunga, recently wrote at CityWatchLA.com. “All these disrespectful remarks are being callously disseminated one month after the Assemblywoman took office and well before she has commenced her legislative work.”

capitolFrontAs recently as mid-January, an attack website accused Lopez of “deceiving voters.” However, the website has recently been taken down and no archived copy was available.

The attacks, to a degree, have galvanized support for Lopez.

“She listens to us and is working for our communities instead of the pocketbooks of a few,” Nina Royal, who is active in several community organizations in the district, recently posted on Facebook. “I am confident that she will work hard to make a difference in our District.”

Another community activist in the largely Spanish-speaking district told Hoy Los Angeles, “Ella representa lo que la gente quiere, es la voz de ellos.” In English, “She represents what people want, (she) is the voice of them.”

‘I will make sure that everyone’s voice is heard’

Lopez, who declined CalWatchdog.com’s request for comment on the recall attempt, has said she’s interested in representing all people in her district, not just politically connected party loyalists.

“I am no different from many of my colleagues in the Assembly because I ran for this office to improve the lives of people in my district and in California,” Lopez recently wrote. “And as the new representative of the 39th District in the California Assembly, I will make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.”

She added, “I am still learning how everything works in the Legislature.”