Here’s a bit of irony: California’s most honest politician is the only one guilty of perjury.
On Tuesday morning, a jury found State Senator Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, guilty of eight counts of felony voter fraud, perjury and filing a false declaration of candidacy. The jury of nine women and three men, which began deliberating last Friday, sided with prosecutors who had argued that Wright never lived in the 25th Senate District, which he was elected to represent.
Even Wright conceded at trial that his official residence wasn’t his only residence.
“If you asked me where I stayed the most, that’s kind of unfair,” Wright said on the stand. “I have three residences.”
At his March 12 sentencing, Wright could face up to eight years and four months in prison. Wright will likely maintain his seat in the Senate while his lawyers work on an appeal.
Wright’s conviction is another blow to a state Senate, which has been embroiled in scandal. But, unlike State Senator Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, Wright’s not accused of corruption, pay-to-play allegations, or being on the take. He’s been found guilty of not living in his district, a charge that could be credibly made against numerous California elected officials. After all, members of Congress don’t have to live in their districts.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, described the verdict “as a punch to the gut.” It’s also a blow to honesty in Sacramento.
Wright may have lied to get elected, but he’s been one of the few truth-tellers in Sacramento. Ask Republicans and Democrats, members and staff, lobbyists and reformers. They’ll tell you Wright always provides a refreshing dose of honesty, while the rest of the building is busy delivering spin. His commitment to the truth has often put him at odds with his Democratic colleagues.
“Wright often bucks his party’s orthodoxy,” observed Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters. “But his self-appointed role as Democratic contrarian is in many ways refreshing and valuable to the legislative process, because he brings a level of common sense to many issues that is otherwise lacking in the robotic positions taken by members of both parties.”
An expert on energy policy, Wright has questioned whether the state’s environmental policies are based on sound science or over-hyped talking points. He’s supported gun control, but has also earned the National Rifle Association’s ”Defender of Freedom” Award. And, in an era of term-limited memories, the avid history buff has reminded his colleagues it’s not always wise to rush to be the first in the country to adopt a new government regulation.
Yep, State Senator Rod Wright just might be the only politician in California that consistently tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Except for when it comes to where he lives.
Cross-posted at CalNewsRoom.