McNerney sues state over “Congressman” ballot designation

The former Congressman argues the Secretary of State has misinterpreted California law.

Former Congressman Jerry McNerney is suing California Secretary of State Shirly Weber over his ballot designation in his State Senate race. 

McNerney is suing to have his ballot designation be “Congressman,” even though he has been out of office for nearly one year. 


The big picture: McNerney filed the lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court on Wednesday over the ballot designation. 

  • McNerney filed to run for Senate District 5 – which will be open once Sen. Susan Eggman (D–Stockton) leaves – on Dec. 8. He is running against Asm. Carlos Villapudua (D–Stockton). 
  • One week after pulling papers, the Secretary of State’s Office informed McNerney that his “Congressman” ballot designation was rejected. 

McNerney’s argument: McNerney argues in the lawsuit that his designation of Congressman should be allowed because it complies with state law. 

  • Elections Code section 13107 states that candidates can submit a designation from “either the current principal professions, vocations or occupations of the candidate, or the principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate during the calendar year immediately preceding the filing of nomination documents.” 
  • His last day in Congress was Jan. 3, 2023, which is within one year of his filing. 
  • Since leaving Congress, McNerney has worked part time as a senior policy advisor for law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. 
  • According to the lawsuit, Weber denied the Congressman designation because of McNerney’s employment with the law firm. McNerney argues that state law does not bar a candidate from using an earlier profession, vocation or occupation as a ballot designation. 

Faulconer’s attempt: Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer had a similar lawsuit against the state when he was running for Governor during the recall election for Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021. 

  • Faulconer, who served as San Diego Mayor from 2014-2020, wanted to be listed as “Former Mayor of San Diego.” 
  • That request was denied by then Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Faulconer tried once again with “Retired Mayor of San Diego,” which was also denied. 
  • Padilla denied the requests because California law prohibits the uses of a word or prefix to indicate a prior profession, and to have “retired” listed candidates would have to have voluntarily retired from public office. Faulconer chose not to run for reelection as mayor in 2020. 
  • A judge ultimately ruled against Faulconer in his lawsuit. 
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