California Assemblymember Vince Fong’s chances of running for Congress are still alive, as a judge ruled on Thursday that he can proceed as a candidate to replace Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Superior Court Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang’s ruling brings an end to the initial turmoil in the race to replace the retiring former House speaker.
The rejection of California Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s argument against Fong’s candidacy highlights Chang’s stance on the matter. Chang firmly believes that the state election code, which Weber’s office claimed Fong violated, is not applicable to Fong and should not be used as a reason to prevent him from appearing on the primary ballot.
Fong wasted no time in expressing his joy and satisfaction following the delivery of the ruling.
In response to the ruling, he expressed his gratitude and stated, “This decision is a win for the constituents of the 20th Congressional District, as they now have the freedom to choose their preferred candidate in the upcoming March 5th election. I am thankful that Judge Chang upheld the fairness of our electoral process and stood with the voters of the Central Valley, opposing the excessive influence of a Sacramento politician.”
The main concern revolved around whether Fong could still be listed as a candidate for Congress, despite already filing for re-election for his Assembly seat. Initially, he had chosen not to run for McCarthy’s seat. However, Fong had a change of heart when state Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), who was considered a formidable contender, unexpectedly decided against running.
After the deadline to withdraw from the ballot as an Assembly candidate had passed, Fong went ahead and filed for a congressional run. Weber argued that this violated state law, which prohibits appearing on the same ballot twice for different positions. As a result, Fong’s name was excluded from the list of certified candidates for the 20th congressional district. Fong, however, decided to take legal action and sued to stay on the ballot.
During Thursday’s hearing, Fong’s lawyers delved into the intricate interpretations of state election law. They contended that the law did not explicitly forbid a politician from simultaneously holding positions in both Congress and the state legislature.
In her ruling, the judge expressed a favorable stance towards Fong, but also raised concerns about his candidacy. She acknowledged that the decision might lead to voter confusion and the potential disenfranchisement of voters if Fong were to be elected for both offices but not retain one. Additionally, she pointed out the contradiction in allowing a candidate to run for two offices in the same election, which goes against common sense.
Judge Chang made her ruling just moments before the 5 p.m. deadline, which required the Secretary of State to provide a list of certified candidates for the district.
Fong, who previously served as McCarthy’s district director and has received the endorsement of his former boss, is a strong contender for the position. He benefits from his familiarity with the district and his connections within McCarthy’s political network.
However, due to the uncertainty surrounding Fong’s eligibility, several other candidates have decided to join the race for the strongly Republican district. Among them are Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, Kyle Kirkland, a prosperous Fresno casino owner and philanthropist, and David Giglio, who had previously entered the race as a far-right contender against McCarthy.
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