Merced district attorney decides not to run for state Senate in Denham recall

Larry Morse, Merced County District Attorney  (Steve Kosko / The Modesto Bee)
Larry Morse, Merced County District Attorney (Steve Kosko / The Modesto Bee)

Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II says he won't challenge state Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Merced, in the recall election.

"Although there is so much that can and should be done in state government, my responsibility is to the people who elected me," he said a statement.

Morse cited 32 open homicides cases and the impending closure of A Woman's Place — a nonprofit mainly for abused women — as factors in his decision.

After reflecting on the work that needed to be done in Merced County, Morse decided to opt out. "It's just not the time when everything is said and done," he said.

Morse ran for Assembly in 1996 and lost to Dennis Cardoza. He also considered a run for Senate in 2002.

He was approached in February about a bid by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland. There was no pressure to make a decision until this past week, Morse said.

On the same day of Morse's decision, Gov. Schwarzenegger announced that Denham's seat would be up for grabs on the June 3 ballot. The vote will ask if he should be recalled, and if so, who should take his place.

With the election date set, interested candidates must return their paperwork and signatures needed to qualify for the ballot by Saturday. The ballot will be certified April 9.

No candidates have declared their intent to run for Denham's seat, though various names have been floated, including Morse and Monterey County Supervisor Simon Salinas.

Salinas, who was unavailable for comment, served in the Assembly from 2000 to 2006.

The recall was launched by Perata in July because Denham refused to be the sole vote needed to pass the budget. He opposed it because he believed more money needed to be cut from the state's spending plan.

He's since proclaimed that his stance was unfortunately vindicated because the state is facing an estimated $16 billion deficit.

Denham's opponents charge that he broke his word because, by not voting for the budget, he kept funding from Highway 99 and schools.

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