Sen. Roderick Wright should quit the Senate and spare his colleagues from having to expel him after his conviction Tuesday on eight counts of lying about his place of residence. If Wright fails to step down, the California Senate would have no choice but to vote to banish him.
Lawmakers should not be felons.
Wright claimed on his candidate papers that he resided in Inglewood. But then Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley concluded he lived in upscale Baldwin Hills and charged Wright in 2010 with perjury and voting fraud. Jurors agreed. Scheduled to be sentenced in March, Wright faces up to eight years in prison. That seems excessive. But perjury is a serious crime.
Consistency requires that Wright step down or be expelled. Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, has not been indicted, or convicted. But the Senate stripped him of committee assignments after a leaked FBI affidavit showed he was the subject of an investigation.
The California Constitution requires that a legislator be an elector and a resident of the legislative district for at least a year prior to the election. The law could not be clearer, though many try to skirt the requirement.
Enforcement of the residency requirement seems uneven. The Sacramento County district attorney did not pursue charges against Assemblyman Richard Pan, whose district was redrawn. He no longer lived in the district, so he bought a condo in the redrawn district though he rarely visited it. Other prosecutors also have shied away from taking on their state representatives.
Voters overwhelmingly re-elected Wright to a second four-year term in November 2012, while charges were pending. Even so, legislators swear an oath to follow the California Constitution. They cannot pick and chose which laws apply.