Assemblyman Jim Patterson is drafting legislation that, had it been law last month, would have required fellow Assemblyman Henry T. Perea to pay Fresno County for the special election to fill his seat. Under the Fresno Republican’s proposal, if an elected official quits during a term to take a private sector job, that politician would be required to use any leftover campaign funds to pay for the special election to fill the seat. Patterson’s bill would also force those politicians to donate any leftover cash, after paying for a special election, to charity – and not to fellow politicians or political causes. “If you are sitting on cash you have raised, I can’t think of a better way to use it than for an election you’ve triggered,” Patterson said.
The idea came during a KMJ radio appearance last week, when a caller suggested a departing politician pay for the special election to fill the seat, if one is needed. “I thought, ‘Hey, that’s a heck of a good idea,’ ” Patterson said.
Perea resigned his seat Dec. 31, a year before the end of his third and final Assembly term. Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth estimates Perea’s decision to resign early will cost Fresno County taxpayers between $530,000 and $575,000 to put on the special election. Gov. Jerry Brown called the election for April 5.
If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote on April 5, a runoff between the top two finishers would be June 7. Fresno County taxpayers would be on the hook for an additional $75,000 to $100,000 if that happens. As of June 30, Perea had more than $900,000 in two active campaign accounts.