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Three GOP state senators call for vote to expel Roderick Wright

Three GOP state senators call for vote to expel Roderick Wright
State Sen. Roderick Wright with his attorney Winston Kevin McKesson, left, listens to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy after a jury convicted him last week of multiple fraud and perjury charges for living outside the district he was elected to represent. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

SACRAMENTO – Three Republican state senators called Tuesday for an immediate vote on expelling state Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) a week after he was found guilty of eight felony charges including perjury and voter fraud.

Steve Knight of Palmdale, Joel Anderson of San Diego and Andy Vidak of Hanford said in a letter to the state Senate Democratic leader that action is required to show "respect to the public and reverence for the laws."

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Prosecutors said Wright lied about living in his Senate district when he ran for office and a jury agreed, but Senate Democrats have delayed an expulsion vote to allow the judge in the case to rule on a Wright motion that the jury verdict is improper. That could happen during a court hearing March 12.

But the three GOP lawmakers say the delay is unjustified and they are concerned about the lack of information.

"The Senate has remained silent for one week, either believing the Senator would give us some indication of his future or an explanation as to the process we or he should pursue," the letter says. "The fact remains that felony convictions have been handed down from a jury upon a member of the Senate.

"Whether an appeal is granted by a judge or not is irrelevant to the fact that a vote of this body should be granted by leadership and/or a forthright effort to the Senator requesting his resignation."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said last week that if an appeal is denied and the conviction is upheld, he would be in favor of removing Wright, but that it would not be appropriate to vote on expelling Wright now. He held firm to that position on Tuesday.

"As I have stated before, I believe that it is premature for this body to act before the verdict is accepted by the judge," Steinberg said in a statement. "An expulsion cannot be undone if the judge does not accept the verdict."

Any senator can introduce a resolution seeking a vote of expulsion, although it could be referred to a committee and held, officials said.

The GOP senators said the Democratic leadership needs to act.

"The California State Senate is an esteemed body and should always conduct itself with respect to the public and reverence for the laws that we are entrusted with," the GOP state senators wrote. "This letter represents our request for the Senate take action on this matter."

Meanwhile, Dan Schnur, an independent candidate for Secretary of State, called Tuesday on two Democratic senators running for the office to also demand Wright's removal.

"The spectacle of a convicted felon continuing to serve in the state legislature is precisely the wrong way to demonstrate to the people of California that their elected officials can be trusted to behave in an ethical and accountable manner," Schnur wrote in a letter to Sens. Alex Padilla of Pacoima and Leland Yee of San Francisco.

Yee responded that he supports the plan proposed by Steinberg.

"It is my responsibility to approach this issue in a measured and thoughtful manner, rather than using it as a publicity stunt," Yee said.

"We should remember that while 12 people voted to convict Senator Wright, nearly 200,000 voted for him to represent them in the last election," Yee added. "The job of the Secretary of State is to protect the expression and franchise of those mostly minority voters, not work to undermine it."

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