Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Indicted State Sen. Leland Yee withdraws from Secretary of State race (Update)

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Bay Area state Sen. Leland Yee, who was indicted Wednesday on a multitude of public corruption and gun trafficking charges, has dropped out of the race for California Secretary of State.

Updated 4:25 p.m. Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar introduced a resolution on Thursday calling for a vote to suspend Yee and that vote will take place Friday at 9 a.m. Democratic Senate President pro Tem Darryl Steinberg had previously said Yee should immediately resign or face a suspension vote. 

If Yee is suspended, he will continue to be paid because the state constitution prevents the Senate from withholding a lawmaker’s salary. However, he will lose voting privileges.

Huff also said he wants votes to suspend two other Democratic senators facing legal trouble. Rod Wright of Inglewood is awaiting sentencing after being convicted for lying about whether he lives in the district he represents. And Ron Calderon has been indicted on multiple federal counts of public corruption. Both senators are on paid leaves of absence from the legislature.  

Yee's attorney sent a letter to Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Thursday stating the lawmaker is withdrawing from the primary election, said a spokeswoman for Bowen's office.

RELATED: Leland Yee investigation: 8 shocking details from the affidavit 

The state election code does not permit a candidate who has filed a declaration of intention and met other requirements for the ballot to withdraw from the primary. So while Yee might not campaign for the office of secretary of state, his name will appear on the ballot.

In fact, Yee's name will appear first on the ballot in some parts of the state. The ballot order for statewide races is rotated between the state's 80 Assembly districts. Various studies have determined that candidates whose names appear first on the ballot tend to get votes by sheer virtue of the position. Any votes Yee receives will affect the rest of the race, which now has seven declared candidates.

The Secretary of State's office confirmed that if Yee is one of the top two vote-getters in the June 3 primary, his name will appear on the November general election ballot. 

Yee's nominal withdrawal gives an advantage to another Democratic state Senator running for the office, Alex Padilla of Pacoima.

On Wednesday, Padilla issued a statement saying Yee's indictment "is another blow to the institution of the California State Senate.  It is a sad day for state government, but it does not reflect the body as a whole."

Other candidates in the race include Democrat Derek Cressman, a political reform activist and former vice-president of Common Cause; Republican Pete Peterson, executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement at Pepperdine University; and Dan Schnur, who once headed the state's Fair Political Practices Commission.

Schnur, a former Republican strategist who is on leave as director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, is declining to state a party preference.

Yee, 65, was elected to the Senate in 2006, having served in the Assembly since 2002. He is a former San Francisco city-county supervisor and served on the local school board. He also ran for mayor in 2011.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Leland Yee's name would appear first on the ballot for Secretary of State throughout California. The ballot order for statewide races is rotated throughout the states's 80 Assembly district, as per state law.

Document: Leland Yee's letter to Secretary of State Debra Bowen


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