SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Three Republican state lawmakers broke with their leader on Tuesday to ask that a Democratic colleague convicted of voter fraud be immediately expelled or forced to resign.
Sens. Joel Anderson of Alpine, Steve Knight of Palmdale and Andy Vidak of Hanford sent a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg calling for the ouster of Sen. Roderick Wright.
Wright could face more than eight years in prison at his March 12 sentencing after a Los Angeles County jury found him guilty of voter fraud and perjury last week.
Steinberg, a Democrat, recommended that Wright be allowed to retain his seat until a judge enters a formal conviction. That could be delayed if an appeals court stays the lower court’s decision.
“The fact remains that felony convictions have been handed down from a jury upon a member of the Senate,” the three Republicans said in a letter on Knight’s official letterhead. “Whether an appeal is granted by a judge or not is irrelevant to the fact that a vote of this body should be granted by leadership and/or a forthright effort to the Senator requesting his resignation.”
A spokeswoman for Wright, Jennifer Hanson, said she could not comment. Wright’s attorney previously said the senator plans an appeal, but he cannot act until the judge formally accepts last week’s jury’s verdict.
“As I have stated before, I believe that it is premature for this body to act before the verdict is accepted by the judge,” Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in a statement issued in response to the GOP letter. “An expulsion cannot be undone if the judge does not accept the verdict.”
Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, last week agreed with Steinberg’s decision to let Wright remain in office but give up his committee chairmanships.
“The Senate will be able to make more informed decisions once the sentencing process is completed in March,” Huff said in a statement at the time.
Huff did not comment Tuesday on the letter sent by his fellow Republicans.
Wright was convicted of fraud by professing to have moved into an Inglewood property he owned so he could run in 2008 to represent the 25th Senate District. Jurors found that Wright actually lived outside the district. Because of redistricting, he currently represents the 35th Senate District.
Meanwhile, a former chairman of the state’s campaign watchdog commission who is now running for secretary of state called on two Democratic rivals to lead efforts to expel Wright from the Senate.
Dan Schnur, a former Republican operative who is running as an independent, sent a letter to Sens. Alex Padilla of Los Angeles and Leland Yee of San Francisco noting that secretary of state oversees elections and campaign-finance reporting.
“The spectacle of a convicted felon continuing to serve in the state legislature is precisely the wrong way to demonstrate to the people of California that their elected officials can be trusted to behave in an ethical and accountable manner,” wrote Schnur, who previously was chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission. “Without action on the part of you and your fellow senators, voters now have every reason to suspect that partisan and political allegiances are more important than honoring the rule of law.”
Yee said in a statement that it is his responsibility to consider Wright’s future “in a measured and thoughtful manner, rather than using it as a publicity stunt.” He supported Steinberg’s recommendation to wait until the conviction is final.
Padilla’s spokesman did not return numerous messages.
“It’s not the Legislature’s place to comment on campaigning, electioneering issues,” said Rhys Williams, a spokesman for Steinberg.
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