State Senator Roderick Wright should immediately resign from the State Senate. He should not vote on any more bills, he should not take another dime of pay, and the way should be paved for the Governor to call a special election to fill his seat.
For those who may have missed the news, yesterday, after two days of deliberations, a jury of Wright’s peers found him guilty on eight felony counts of perjury and voter fraud. After hearing both sides presented to them, it was found that Wright did not actually establish bonefide residency in the State Senate District to which he was elected. While the Senator said that he had “three homes” — one of them in the district — the Los Angeles County District Attorney apparently was able to make a compelling case that Wright’s “home” in the district was not where he actually lived.
Frankly, if Senator Wright does not resign immediately, then his colleagues in the Senate had best be fairly prompt in taking action. There may be some unhappiness about the verdicts — and even some armchair quarterbacking of the whole case. The last time a Senator was convicted of a felony, the Senator did not resign until the Senate Rules Committee cast a bipartisan vote recommending removal a couple of weeks after the conviction.
While of course there is some small potential that he could appeal his convictions and have them overturned, that is not likely. It is significant to note that Wright is now a convicted felon. We have now shifted the burden. Until yesterday Wright was “innocent until proven guilty” and his continued service as a legislator was appropriate. This is not the case anymore.
Wright’s conviction should be a wake-up call to any legislators who are playing fast and loose with residency requirements for their offices. If you represent a district, you should actually live in it. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard it said that it really doesn’t matter where you live because the Senate and Assembly, respectively, are the sole arbiters about whether you are qualified to serve — and that looking the ‘other way’ is not uncommon.
I will close by re-iterating that Wright should do the right thing and just step down from office. From all accounts about him, he is a well liked, charismatic fellow. It would be unfortunate if he forces his fellow Senators to take action. The integrity of the California legislature must remain above reproach.