Former Assemblywoman Doris Allen, bidding for political rebirth after being booted from office in a tumultuous 1995 recall, won a court fight Tuesday to run again for her old Assembly seat in Orange County.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Cecily Bond rejected a bid by state officials to deny Allen, California's first female Assembly speaker, a spot on the ballot because of the state's term limits law.
The 1990 law restricts Assembly members to three two-year terms. Allen, a Republican, was not quite halfway through her final term when she was recalled Nov. 28, 1995. Attorneys for Secretary of State Bill Jones, who plans to appeal, argued that being elected a third time was enough to cut Allen out of an opportunity to run in the June GOP primary.
Bond, however, said such reasoning runs counter to the "plain meaning" of the law, which says a legislator "may not serve" more than three terms in the Assembly.
"Under any definition, she did not serve three terms," Bond said. "There is no ambiguity here."
Allen, who crossed the Republican Party in 1995 by striking a deal with Democrats to become speaker and largely cut GOP colleagues out of the action, reacted with elation and promised a vigorous campaign to defeat Assemblyman Scott Baugh (R-Huntington Beach).
"This is personal for me," Allen said. "I served my district honorably without any hint of scandal or wrongdoing. I don't think I deserved what happened in that recall."
Republicans dismissed Allen's candidacy as mostly a nuisance.
"If I thought she had any following or credibility, I would be upset. We'd have to re-fight the battle," said Assembly GOP Leader Bill Leonard (R-San Bernardino). "But I'm starting to feel sorry for her. It's a real sadness. This belongs more in the theater than the public eye this way."
Baugh, who faces a June trial on felony and misdemeanor charges of campaign wrongdoing stemming from his election to replace Allen, said he would take her challenge seriously.
"Once again you're going to have a real Orange County Republican, me, running against Willie Brown's Republican from Sacramento," Baugh said. "That's the issue. That was the issue we framed the first time, and we beat her."
Baugh also said he intended to point out to voters that Allen has lived in Sacramento since her recall and argue that she has lost touch with the district. "She's a professional career politician who doesn't want to leave Sacramento."