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After Fong Ruling, a 'Bitter Pill to Swallow' for US Senate Losers Katie Porter & Barbara Lee?
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 1 month ago on
April 11, 2024

U.S. Reps. Katie Porter, left, and Barbara Lee of California. Should they have sought re-election in the House while running for the open U.S. Senate seat? (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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When three prominent California members of Congress ran for the open U.S. Senate seat, at least two were guaranteed to leave office come January.

The three Dems — Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, Katie Porter, D-Irvine, and Barbara Lee, D-Oakland — ran to succeed the late Dianne Feinstein. Schiff finished in the top two along with former baseball great Steve Garvey, R-Palm Desert.

All three Democrats forewent running for congressional re-election. The conventional wisdom, and more than 100 years of legal interpretation, was that a candidate could not run for more than one office at a time.

This week’s appeal court ruling regarding Vince Fong upended that precedent. With a 3-0 ruling, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling allowing Fong, R-Bakersfield, to run for both Congress and re-election in Assembly on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The court said that the law used to interpret the “one at a time” rule applied to candidates independent of the party primary system. And, because California dumped that system a decade ago in favor of the top-two system, the justices said that the law no longer applies.

What the Experts Say

Fong is the most prominent candidate to game the system in this manner. If candidates knew they could run for a new position, and re-election for the old, they probably would.

“I suppose some politicians might try to run for one seat while keeping another if they can. Why take a risk when you don’t have to?” Fresno State political science professor Thomas Holyoke said.

As far as what could have been for Porter and Lee, Holyoke said, “That would be a bitter pill for them to swallow.”

Neither Porter nor Lee responded to GV Wire’s request to comment.

However, it’s not like any of those seats are in jeopardy of flipping as Democrats and Republicans battle for control of the House. All are strong Democratic strongholds.

“I expect we will see many more candidates running for multiple offices unless the Legislature passes a new law extending the prohibition beyond independent candidacies,” UCLA law professor Rick Hasen said. “Allowing people to run for multiple offices at the same time creates serious risks of vacancies and additional costs of special elections.”

If Fong wins his Congressional race, either in the May 21 special election (for the immediate vacant seat) or the Nov. 5 general election (for the full-time seat), he said he would resign from the Assembly.

A resignation after May 21 would likely cause the seat to remain vacant until voters chose a winner in November. State law does not require the governor to call for a special election to fill a vacancy in the last year of a term.

However, if Fong wins in November for both races, a special election for Assembly — likely in early 2025 — would be necessary.

Help on the Way

Secretary of State Shirley Weber argued that Fong or any candidate running for multiple offices may lead to “absurd” results. But, that may never come to fruition.

Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, D-Santa Cruz, authored AB 1784, which explicitly bars one candidate running for multiple offices at the same time. It also allows for a candidate who files to withdraw before the deadline — something current law does not allow.

The bill passed the Assembly election committee without dissent on Wednesday.

Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo also proposed a similar bill, AB 1795. That has yet to be assigned to committee.

What About Other Double Runs?

The Fong ruling would not apply to city elections. Election Code 10220.5 specifically forbids a candidate, for example, running for both Fresno mayor and city council in the same election.

However, a candidate could run for city council and supervisor in the same election. At least four candidates in the March 5 election ran for more than one office, including James Bradley (U.S. Senate and president), and Dieter Dammeier (Superior Court judge in San Bernardino and Merced counties).

Both men lost each race.

Whether a candidate who wins two elections can hold on to both jobs is a different story and a different election law. The short answer: no.

Fresno GOP Dual Endorsement for City Council

The Fresno County GOP endorsed both run-off candidates for Fresno City Council, District 6. But only one recently registered as a Republican.

Attorney Roger Bonakdar, the top vote-earner on March 5 with 37%, registered as a Republican last week. He was listed in the primary as no party preference.

“As a candidate going door-to-door, voters expect you to pick a camp,” Bonakdar said.

He said he was contacted by “multiple members of the party” who invited him to join.

“The fact they made me their first choice candidate speaks to my character as a person, that I am the law and order candidate, and the only candidate who has the real-world professional experience to help take Fresno in the right direction,” Bonakdar said.

Nick Richardson, a safety consultant and veteran, ran in the primary as a Republican. He finished second with 27%. Since neither achieved a majority, they will face off in November.

“The Republican Party’s true ideals are based on supporting safety, freedom, and prosperity for all Americans. As a lifelong Republican, I welcome my opponent’s hasty embrace last week of the values I’ve held my whole life. They say ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,’ so it makes sense that he decided to join us,” Richardson told Politics 101.

Bonakdar insists he won the endorsement vote.

“The ‘dual endorsement’ came as an alternative, after I was made the first choice candidate, as a gesture to show harmony with there being two Republicans in the race,” Bonakdar said.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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