Byzantine politics

Republican candidates maneuver to claim empty seats

When Doug LaMalfa announced he was resigning his state Senate seat last week, he said it was so taxpayers could save $2 million, the cost of holding a special primary election. But there were other reasons behind his decision.

LaMalfa didn’t have to resign. He has two years left in his four-year term, and, had he lost his race for Congress, he could have finished out his Senate term and run for re-election in 2014. His resignation shows how confident he is of defeating his Democratic opponent, Jim Reed, and claiming the seat being vacated by the retiring Wally Herger. Once he’s in, the seat’s his for as long as he wants it.

And LaMalfa’s right about saving money. Had he waited until after the November election, at least one and possibly two expensive special elections would have been required. (If more than two candidates run in the special primary race and none gets a majority, a special runoff election will be needed anyway.)

But LaMalfa was also thinking about who was going to take his place in the Senate. His pal Jim Nielsen has had his eyes on LaMalfa’s seat ever since LaMalfa announced he was running for Congress. Nielsen didn’t run for re-election to the state Assembly this year so he could run for LaMalfa’s empty seat. The first thing LaMalfa did after announcing his resignation was endorse Nielsen to replace him.

Now speculation is that 3rd District Assemblyman Dan Logue, who is up for re-election this year, will run against Nielsen. Logue’s chief of staff, Cliff Wagner, told the Redding Record Searchlight the assemblyman hadn’t decided yet.

If Logue does run, he’ll be in the uncomfortable position of campaigning for two offices simultaneously, something his opponents no doubt will mention often.

North State voters who don’t follow regional Republican Party politics may not realize how vicious it can be. This is one of the last areas in the state where Republican candidates win, and they fight tooth and toenail over every open legislative seat. In particular, there’s no love lost between Nielsen and Logue.

If Logue or anyone else is going to run against Nielsen, he (or she) needs to decide soon. The Secretary of State’s Office is putting together a special-election calendar, and I was told by someone there that the candidate filing deadline will be soon, certainly before the end of the month.

Let’s hope at least one Democrat runs, if only to remind people that Nielsen’s political life is based on a fraud—his claim that he lives in a mobile home in Gerber, when in fact he lives in a gated subdivision in Woodland, outside his district.

It’s ironic that even as Nielsen is jumping back into the campaign fray, another lawmaker, state Sen. Rod Wright, is about to go on trial on eight felony counts of voter fraud and perjury based on allegations he claimed to live in an apartment inside his district when he actually lived in a house outside it. Sound familiar?

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.