Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee faces federal gun trafficking and political corruption charges, but still collected more than a quarter-million votes for California secretary of state in Tuesday’s primary election.
Yee, out on bail, had filed a written notice to drop out of the race for the state’s top elections officer right after his arrest in March, but it came after the deadline for removing his name from the ballot.
The veteran lawmaker and child psychologist finished a distant third out of the eight candidates running for the office, according to preliminary totals. Late-arriving and provisional ballots are still being counted across California, so there’s a slight chance Yee's finish in the contest could slip lower.
As the vote count stood Wednesday morning, Yee finished ahead of ethics watchdog Dan Schnur, a former chairman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, who framed his campaign around cleaning up Sacramento. Yee also finished ahead of Derek Cressman, a Democrat and former director of the good-government group Common Cause.
State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and Pete Peterson, a Republican and executive director of a public policy think tank at Pepperdine University, topped the field in the race for secretary of state and will face off in the November general election.
Larry Gerston, a political scientist from San Jose State University, said voters probably just recognized Yee’s name among the crowded field of candidates and didn’t connect him to the political scandal.
“Isn’t it amazing?” Gerston said. “Third place.”
Yee’s support was pretty consistent around the state. He collected 10% — more-or-less — of the ballots cast in many counties, according to unofficial results.
Among counties where Yee had his strongest showing were San Francisco, his hometown, and Sacramento, where he was serving in the Legislature. Yee’s arrest received extensive news coverage in both areas.
Federal prosecutors have accused Lee of offering to help an undercover FBI agent buy automatic weapons and to assist another undercover agent, who posed as a medical marijuana businessman, to meet influential legislators who could affect the regulation of marijuana.