Congressman “Judge” Saund

Judge Saund

Thursday is the 113th anniversary of former California Congressman Dalip Singh Saund.

Born in India in 1899, Judge Saund became (in 1957) the first United States Congressman to have been born in Asia. Saund became a U.S. citizen in 1949 and was elected to a judicial office in Imperial County in 1950. He was denied that seat because he had not been a citizen for a full year at the time of his election.

Saund held his seat in Congress for three terms before losing reelection in 1962. Today, a Post Office in Temecula bears his name.

This year, on the 50th anniversary of Saund’s defeat in the 1962 election Republican Ricky Gill is running for Congress, hoping to become California’s second Indian-American Congressman. Gill faces against incumbent Jerry McNerney, who is serving his third term in the House. With close voter registration numbers and McNerney having to move into the freshly drawn seat, the McNerney-Gill race is going to be one of the ones to watch in November.

Timing and the La Malfa Vacancy

How much does a single day matter? Sometimes, a surprising amount.

Doug La Malfa

Take, for example, the case of the currently vacant 4th Senate District. The incumbent, Senator Doug La Malfa, resigned on the final night of the 2011-12 legislative session in order to allow consolidation of the special election with the November General Election.

California law sets the terms for State Senators at four years, and (for those who have previously served in the legislature) limits officeholders to two terms. The only exception is for legislators who are elected in Special Elections and serve less than half of the term to which they were elected. Speaking of the Term Limits law, the California Constitution (Art. XX, Sect. 7) reads “Those limitations shall not apply to any unexpired term to which a person is elected or appointed if the remainder of the term is less than half of the full term.”

So if an individual begins serving in the Senate right before the halfway point, they get to serve slightly more than two years in their first term and then four full years of their second term (for a total of six years). Alternatively, if their service doesn’t begin until right after the halfway point, they get to serve just under two years of their first term and then two full four-year terms (for a total of ten years).

In 2003, Don Perata argued that although he won a special election in the first half of a Senate term, his postponing of the inauguration until just after the midpoint created a delay in the starting of the clock (and gave him an additional term in the Senate). He was successful and ended up serving ten years in the Senate.

The issue is coming up again in this special election. The term to which La Malfa was elected to in 2010 began on December 6, 2010 and will end November 30, 2014. That’s a total of 1,456 days, meaning that the halfway point in the term comes at the end of the 728th day of the term. In this case, that’s December 3, 2012, the first day of the 2013-14 legislative session.

If the SD-04 Special Election goes to a run-off, this isn’t an issue; the second election would fall in early January (after the midpoint of the term). But if someone is able to win the election outright in November, it would probably be worth putting off the inauguration by a day to secure an additional four years in office.

Former Legislator Races in November

Some nonpartisan races we’ll be watching this November;

Bruce McPherson – Former Secretary of State running in Santa Cruz County
Roy Ashburn – Former State Senator running in Kern County
Kevin Jeffries – Assemblyman running in Riverside County
Joe Simitian – State Senator running in Santa Clara County

Bob Filner – Congressman running for Mayor of San Diego

Special Districts
Tony Mendoza – Assemblyman running for Central Basin Municipal Water District Board
Phil Hawkins – Former Assemblyman running for Central Basin Municipal Water District Board

And of course the returning alumni…
Former Legislators Sally J. Lieber, Joe Coto, Hannah-Beth Jackson, George Plescia, Rico Oller, Richard Alarcon, Joe Baca Jr., Tony Cardenas and Abel Maldonado are all running for office again as well.