Herger’s monkey wrench

Scramble for position ensues following news of his retirement

Rep. Wally Herger’s decision to retire after his current term, announced Tuesday (Jan. 10), is shaking things up in this regional enclave of Republican lawmakers. (For our story on Herger’s retirement, see Newslines, page 9.)

Just a few months ago redistricting provoked a game of musical chairs involving Assemblymen Dan Logue and Jim Nielsen, with Nielsen announcing he was running in Logue’s old District 3, now slightly redrawn, and Logue saying he was moving to Lake Wildwood, near Grass Valley, to run in the new District 1.

Well, scrap that. Herger has endorsed—anointed is more like it—Richvale rice farmer Doug LaMalfa, now the state senator from District 4, as his heir-designate for the new District 1 congressional seat, and that’s thrown a monkey wrench into the works.

Nielsen has now announced that he’s not running for re-election to the Assembly after all, but rather for LaMalfa’s seat, which if LaMalfa wins will be up for grabs in a special election. And Logue has announced that he’s going to run in District 3 after all. “I’m staying in this district, and I’m real excited about it,” he told the Marysville Appeal-Democrat.

The situation is much in flux. Chico’s Rick Keene, a former Assembly member who lost narrowly to LaMalfa in the 2010 Republican Senate primary, could decide to challenge Nielsen. Keene would have a good chance for a number of reasons, not the least of them Nielsen’s longtime insistence on the canard that he lives in a mobile home in cow country near Gerber.

The lines of La Malfa’s Senate district aren’t set to change until the end of his term, in 2014, but it’s unclear whether a special election held mid-term would affect that. Nielsen’s actual home, in Woodland, is in the current District 4, but not the redistricted District 4.

Besides, the whole issue of district lines is up in the air pending a state Supreme Court challenge to them and possible qualification of a Republican-sponsored initiative to overturn them. And then there’s the new “top two” primary election in June, which could complicate things even more.

LaMalfa’s Democratic opponent will be Fall River Mills attorney Jim Reed, who lost to Herger in the 2010 general election. Don’t be surprised, however, if “Col. Pete” Stiglich, who ran against Herger in the 2010 Republican primary, tosses his hat in the ring. If so, and nobody garners a majority, the top two will advance to the November election.

Schwab in the clear: I mentioned a while back that City Councilman Mark Sorensen had filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission seeking clarification on whether Mayor Ann Schwab had a conflict of interest when she voted to approve a $400,000 grant being handled by her employer, Chico State. Schwab reports that she received a letter from the FPPC stating government employees are exempt from conflict laws regarding their employers.

Schwab also pointed out that I’d failed to include her in my predictions last week. I can now report that she intends to run for a third term on the council, just as I thought she would. She’ll win, too.

Robert Speer is editor of the CN&R.