Court OK's Berryhill bid for Senate

Assemblyman Tom Berryhill won the tussle over whether he has lived in the 14th Senate District long enough to compete for the seat held by Dave Cogdill.

Heidi Fuller, Berryhill's opponent, has asked two courts to disqualify him on the grounds that his move doesn't comply with the state constitution's requirement that candidates live in a district a year before seeking office.

Berryhill moved from Modesto to Oakdale for the campaign in January, 11 months before the November election.

The Sacramento County Superior Court this week sided with Berryhill, pointing to two rulings from the state Supreme Court that held local government candidates can run for office as long they live in a district 30 days before Election Day.

Last month, the state's 3rd District Court of Appeal declined to hear Fuller's case.

That's two decisions supporting Berryhill, though Fuller is considering an appeal.

"We said (the lawsuit) was unwarranted and we said she was going to lose," Berryhill consultant Steve Presson said. "Tom has met all the requirements to run for office."

Fuller found a reason to appeal in the court's opinion, which noted that the residency requirement doesn't bar candidates from seeking office. The court also distinguished between a person's constitutional rights to travel and vote — both of which were significant in prior rulings striking residency requirements — and a candidate's right to run for office.

"The residency requirement does not preclude Berryhill from running for Senate or from traveling intrastate; it simply requires him to have been a resident of the particular district in which he runs for at least one year," Judge Timothy M. Frawley wrote.

In a news release, Fuller highlighted other states with similar residency requirements.

"In California, the constitutional voice of the people is gagged and silent," she said.

Fuller, Berryhill and Oakdale businessman Bret de St. Jeor are running in the GOP primary for Cogdill's seat.

The state has not enforced the residency requirement for decades, with legal opinions from the secretary of state's office holding that doing so would be unconstitutional.

Bee Assistant City Editor Adam Ashton can be reached at or 578-2366.