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Jon Fleischman

Expelling Rod Wright is the Right Thing To Do; “Suspending” Him Is Not

Yesterday afternoon brought with it the news that State Senators Joel Anderson, Steve Knight and Andy Vidak will be presenting a resolution on the Senate Floor this morning to formally expel Rod Wright.  Much has been written about Wright’s eight felony convictions by a jury in Los Angeles nearly a month ago — they concluded that Wright lied when he said he actually lived in the district in which he ran for re-election. Yesterday I published a lengthy column that was an overview of the entire Rod Wright saga, and making the case for why Wright should be removed from the Senate.

It is my hope that on a unanimous vote the Senate will adopt the Anderson/Knight/Vidak resolution, the convicted felon will be expelled, and the Senate can move passed at least the Rod Wright-related scandal (Calderon is a whole separate issue).  Unfortunately the overwhelming likelihood is that Senate President Darrell Steinberg and his leadership team will use some of their God-like power under the Senate rules to keep the resolution from being considered.  Ultimately Anderson, Vidak and and Knight will be able to force a procedural vote, either to overrule the Chair or to try and pull the resolution from whatever bottomless pit is may be sent to by Steinberg.

It will represent an epic failure by the Capitol’s upper chamber if at the end of this morning’s session Roderick Wright is till a member.  It will be an epic failure if Roderick Wright is still drawing a salary courtesy of taxpayers.  It will be an epic failure if Governor Brown is unable to schedule a special election to replace Wright, so that citizens there can have representation in the Capitol.  It will be an epic failure if Rod Wright is able, either by his own doing or by a simple majority vote of the Senate, to come back and vote on some critical Democrat bill requiring a two-thirds vote.

To that point, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, according to the Los Angeles Times, has put in two resolutions of his own, calling for both Rod Wright and Ron Calderon to be “suspended” immediately.  This is consistent with statements made by Huff to the media where he has expressed an opinion that Wright should not be expelled until his post-trial motions have been considered by the trial judge, and sentencing takes place — in May.  For most people, it is when the jury actually announced their verdicts that Rod Wright became guilty.

I would encourage Huff to change his position, and publicly call for Wright to be expelled this morning.  I think that the other “silent seven” GOP Senators who have been very quiet on this to also join in a call for Wright’s expulsion.

As for suspending Wright?  For all of the reasons I articulated above — doing that falls extraordinarily short of what is called for here.  When you hear suspension think paid vacation.  When you hear suspension think of a district of voters deprived of moving on.  When you hear suspension think of Wright being able to return at the whim of his party to cast that key vote to increase taxes.   When you hear suspension for Rod Wright think of it as a public relations stunt to give “cover” to those who think Wright should not be expelled.

As a Republican myself, I am hopeful that State Senate Republicans, after the Democrats block the resolution authored by Anderson, Knight and Vidak, will hold a press conference and announce that they would have voted to expel Wright today.  As of now only those three Senators, and also Senator Wyland, have made feeling that Wright should no longer be a Senator crystal clear.  Wright is a convicted felon, after all.

On a closing point, I think that Ron Calderon should resign from the Senate.  But if he doesn’t, suspending him would be appropriate.  He has been accused of very serious crimes.  But he has not yet been convicted, an important distinction from Wright.

[Hopefully this column sounded cohesive. I penned it just now after a cross-country “red eye” flight!]