Editorial: Sen. Wright should quit, or be expelled

01/29/2014 12:00 AM

02/01/2014 7:24 AM

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.

Wright, scheduled to be sentenced in March, could face 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, although many legislators try to skirt the requirement.

As The Bee reported last year, Assemblyman Richard Pan rarely visited the Pocket condominium he bought after his district shifted, and he no longer represented the Natomas area where his family lived. He since has given up the condo.

Enforcement of the residency requirement seems uneven. Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully did not pursue the matter against Pan. 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 to them.

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