Former Assembly member John Laird and current Assembly member Sam Blakeslee may have officially announced their candidacies and are preparing for a shotgun wedding-style campaign for recently confirmed Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado’s 15th district senate seat – but hooold your horses, cowboys! A lawsuit filed this morning is trying to delay the June 22 special election and names one of the counties in the district, Monterey, as a defendant. The document says the special election ordered by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last month would put Monterey County in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs will argue that the special election needs federal approval from the Justice Department and that the dates set – a June 22 primary and an August 17 runoff – do not allow enough time for the county to prepare. “They’re required to get the preclearing and they haven’t gotten it and they need to get it,” says Gay Crosthwait Grunfeld, a San Francisco-based lawyer for the plaintiffs. The California Democratic Party is reportedly backing the suit.
The complaint also says the election ought to take place in November, placing it on the ballot with higher profile, national contests, something Democrats had hoped Schwarzenegger would do on his own. The general consensus seems to be that a November election with a higher turnout would play out better for a Democratic candidate – in this case, John Laird. So they were necessarily incensed when Schwarzenegger stamped out those hopes hours after Maldonado’s confirmation, issuing the executive order for the June primary.
Laird responded to the news by writing a letter to Blakeslee, asking him to temporarily put the competition aside and join forces in asking the Gov. to delay the election. “Because Monterey County is a Voting Rights Act county, there are serious issues about whether minority voters are being disproportionately disenfranchised because of the special election date,” he wrote. “Enough is enough. We will be spending millions of dollars that our counties desperately need on an election at the same time essential services are being cut.”
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court and has already been assigned to Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose.