McNerney barred from using “Congressman” as ballot designation

The former Congressman agreed to use a different ballot designation to reflect his current job.

Former Congressman Jerry McNerney has lost his attempt to have his former profession appear as his ballot designation for State Senate. 

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled against McNerney on Tuesday, deciding that McNerney’s ballot designation will not be “Congressman” in the Senate District 5 race. 


The backstory: McNerney, who left Congress on Jan. 3, 2023, filed a lawsuit against California Secretary of State Shirley Weber after she denied “Congressman” as his requested ballot designation. 

  • He argued that state law allows professions to be used as a ballot designation if a candidate had worked that job within the previous year. 

The big picture: Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang disagreed with McNerney, ruling his interpretation of state law renders part of the law as meaningless. Chang wrote in her ruling that the court has to take all of state law into account. 

  • Chang said McNerney’s request to use Congressman suggests that he is currently serving in Congress, even though he only spent three days of 2023 employed in Washington D.C. 
  • State law, Chang ruled, clearly limits the use of elected official designations to those currently serving as elected officials. 
  • Chang said that using Congressman as the ballot designation would mislead voters. 
  • She also ruled that McNerney could not use “former Congressman” because prefixes are barred by state law. 
  • McNerney’s current job as a senior policy advisor for law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP also came into account, with Chang ruling that state law prevents a candidate from using a prior profession if the candidate has a current profession. 
  • During the hearing, McNerney agreed to use “Policy Advisor” as his ballot designation. 

Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang as former Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Gordon Schaber.

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