Sen. Leland Yee's arrest shakes up race for secretary of state

This post has been corrected, as indicated below.

SACRAMENTO -- The arrest Wednesday of state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has shaken up the ongoing contest for California secretary of state, in which Yee was one of the top-funded candidates.

Yee was prohibited from running for reelection to the Senate this year because of term limits and had launched a campaign to become the state’s top elections officer.

He was among eight candidates for the statewide post and had spent more than $600,000 so far this year on his candidacy, ending up March 17 with $135,000 in the bank, the third-largest amount reported by the candidates in filings this week.

State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) leads the pack with $614,426 left in his political account.

Other contenders include Dan Schnur, a no-party-preference candidate, who reported $260,441 in his campaign account; Democrat Derek Cressman, who had $77,316 on hand; and Republican candidate Pete N. Peterson, who had $1,637 in available funds.

“If you have been arrested in an anti-corruption campaign, it creates a mountain to overcome for a candidate for secretary of state,” said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.

Cressman, a former director of Common Cause, said the Yee case is a “wake-up call,” coming on the heels of criminal charges against state Sens. Ronald Calderon and Roderick Wright.

“We are clearly beyond the point of looking at one bad apple and instead looking at a corrupt institution in the California Senate,” Cressman said. “The constant begging for campaign cash clearly has a corrosive effect on a person’s soul and the only solution is to get big money out of our politics once and for all.”

[For the Record, 7:15 p.m. PST, March 26: A previous version of this post stated Yee is one of five candidates for secretary of State. He is one of eight.]


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