Three Republican state senators called Tuesday on Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to hold a vote on expelling state Sen. Rod Wright or to make a “forthright effort to the senator requesting his resignation.”
In a letter Tuesday to Steinberg, state Sens. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, and Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, said the Senate cannot wait for Wright’s appeal of his felony convictions on voter fraud and perjury charges.
“The fact remains that felony convictions have been handed down from a jury upon a member of the Senate,” the senators wrote. “Whether an appeal is granted by a judge or not is irrelevant to the fact that a vote of this body should be granted by leadership and/or a forthright effort to the Senator requesting his resignation.”
“The California State Senate is an esteemed body and should always conduct itself with respect to the public and reverence for the laws that we are entrusted with,” the letter continues.
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The letter marks the first public move by some of Wright’s colleagues to get the veteran lawmaker to leave the Legislature. Wright’s office had no comment on his colleagues’ letter.
In a statement, Steinberg said he disagreed with the Republicans’ letter. “As I have stated before, I believe that it is premature for this body to act before the verdict is accepted by the judge. An expulsion cannot be undone if the judge does not accept the verdict,” he said.
Tuesday’s letter comes a week after a Los Angeles County jury found Wright guilty of eight felonies. Prosecutors contend that Wright lied when, running for the state Senate in 2008, he listed an Inglewood address on candidacy papers. In reality, prosecutors allege, Wright lived at an address in Baldwin Hills, about 1 1/2 miles north of the then-25th Senate District.
After Wright’s conviction, he requested that Steinberg remove him as chairman of the influential Senate Governmental Organization Committee, but he continues to serve as a member of other committees. Steinberg said last Wednesday that Wright should be allowed to remain in office at least until his sentencing in mid-March.
There are 11 members of the Senate GOP. Knight’s office organized Tuesday’s letter but did not seek signatures from members besides Anderson and Vidak, who previously had expressed an interest in such a letter.
Republicans could take the issue further by introducing a resolution calling for Wright’s ouster or making such a request on the Senate floor. Yet there were no plans to do that Tuesday.
Two of Steinberg’s Democratic colleagues also faced a call Tuesday to seek Wright’s ouster. In a letter, Dan Schnur, an independent candidate for secretary of state, told two Democratic candidates for the post – state Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, and Leland Yee, D-San Francisco – that “you have a responsibility to use your authority to lead an effort to expel Senator Wright from your body.”
“If you do not support his expulsion, then please plainly explain to your constituents and all California voters why you believe it is acceptable to for a convicted felon to continue to cast votes (and raise money) as a State Senator,” Schnur wrote.
In a statement, Yee called Schnur’s letter a “publicity stunt” said he supported Steinberg’s approach.
“Since this conviction is being appealed, we need to let justice run its course rather than make an irreversible decision,” Yee said. “We should remember that while 12 people voted to convict Senator Wright, nearly 200,000 voted for him to represent them in the last election.”