The attempt by anti-tax advocates to recall Republican Assemblyman Anthony Adams of Hesperia ended last week with a whimper, as it fell well short of the valid petition signatures it needed. And that's a good thing. Voters have the right to recall their representatives, but the move against Adams was more a counterproductive exercise in venting than actual thinking -- and more the product of theater, played out on radio airwaves and in angry anonymous blog commenting, than of any political movement.
FOR THE RECORD:
This editorial says that "California Republicans are losing representatives with the courage to buck one-note anger campaigns. Assembly GOP leader Mike Villines of Clovis; his Senate counterpart, Dave Cogdill of Modesto; and Sen. Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield compromised with Democrats and won't be back next year." All three lawmakers will serve through the end of 2010.
Adams was one of a handful of GOP lawmakers who joined with the Democratic majority to adopt temporary tax increases while sending voters the ill-fated package of May special election measures to prolong the increases and limit spending. Adams put his duty to California, as he saw it, ahead of the no-tax pledge that has become the entry ticket for state Republican political aspirants. If only more in his caucus would do the same -- and if only more Democrats would act with similar courage and integrity when confronted with their pledges to labor unions and other single-issue interest groups.
Adams surely knew that his vote would bring a reelection challenge in June's Republican primary; a concurrent recall by supposed advocates of fiscal responsibility was simply bizarre. The state would have been forced to stage a special election at an estimated cost of more than $1 million just a few months before Adams was to face voters anyway.
The numbers underscore the campaign's theatrical, rather than reality-based, nature: Of the 58,384 signatures filed, a random sampling showed that fewer than half -- 24,579 -- would be valid. As for the rest, chalk them up to people who didn't know or didn't care that they weren't registered in Adams' district, or who used fake names or engaged in any of the other practices that conservatives so often attribute to liberals.
Similar results can be expected this month in the even more ludicrous recall campaign against state Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), a conservative who, unlike Adams, voted against the increases. Huff was targeted because he supported the measure when it went to voters.
The failure of the drive against Adams and (with luck) Huff cannot obscure the fact that California Republicans are losing representatives with the courage to buck one-note anger campaigns. Assembly GOP leader Mike Villines of Clovis; his Senate counterpart, Dave Cogdill of Modesto; and Sen. Roy Ashburn of Bakersfield compromised with Democrats and won't be back next year. As a result, we can expect coming budget talks to be longer, nastier and even less productive than this year's.