Asm. Vince Fong (R–Bakersfield) will appear on the ballot as a candidate for Congressional District 20, a reversal of a previous ruling by California Secretary of State Shirley Weber.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang ruled Thursday
The backstory: After Speaker Emeritus Kevin McCarthy (R–Bakersfield) announced his retirement from Congress, Fong initially stated that he would not run for Congress, instead opting to run for reelection to the Assembly.
- But just a few days later Fong reversed course and jumped into the race.
- He had already qualified to run for re-election in Assembly District 32, though, leading Weber to announce that Fong is ineligible to run for Congress because of a state law that prohibits a candidate from running for two offices simultaneously.
- Fong filed a lawsuit against Weber last week to challenge her decision and appear on the ballot.
Bonta’s opposition: California Attorney General Rob Bonta weighed in, submitting a petition in opposition to Fong before the hearing.
- Bonta pushed back against Fong’s assertion that Weber has a mandatory duty to accept candidate filings, saying the Secretary of State cannot ignore obvious filing defects, such as attempting to run for two offices at the same time.
- Fong argued that the state election code in question only applies to independent nominees, but Bonta pointed to a variety of court decisions in California and on the federal level that confirm the section of state law applies to all candidates.
- Bonta also argues that the prohibition on dual candidacies is not an additional qualification for federal office – as Fong asserted – but rather a regulation of state election procedure.
The ruling: Chang ruled directly on Elections Code section 8003,finding that the language prohibiting a candidate from running for two offices at the same time only applies for the independent nomination of candidates.
- Chang added that she is concerned about the outcome of the decision, since it may result in voter confusion and the disenfranchisement of voters if Fong is ultimately elected for both offices.
- “Moreover, it somewhat defies common sense to find the law permits a candidate to run for two offices during the same election,” Chang wrote. “However, as stated above, the Court is compelled to interpret the law as it is written by the Legislature and finds Elections Code section 8003 is inapplicable to Fong’s Petition and that the statute is the sole basis for [Weber’s] rejection of Fong’s nomination paperwork for CD-20.”
Fong’s response: “Today’s ruling is a victory for the voters of the 20th Congressional District, who will now have the opportunity to select the candidate of their choice in the March 5th election,” Fong said in a statement. “I am grateful that Judge Chang upheld the integrity of our elections and sided with Central Valley voters against an overreaching Sacramento politician.”
- He added, “I look forward to getting back on the campaign trail and working as hard as I can over the next several months to once again win the trust of Central Valley voters and earn the right to represent them in Congress.”