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District 37 State Senate Candidate Steve Young filed a complaint in Sacramento today [warning: PDF] requesting that his opponent, Senator Mimi Walters, be struck from the ballot. He contends that Walters has not actually moved herself and her family into a 570 square foot studio in Irvine, as she contends, but that she and her family continue to live in their 14,000 square foot mansion on a 1.6 acre lot in Laguna Niguel.
The impact of the complaint, if successful, would be the removal of Walters from the ballot and the election of Young to the State Senate by default. If that seems far-fetched, you’re about to find out that it isn’t.
Because this important legal story may otherwise seem a bit dry, we are going to intersperse it with stanzas from the Zombies classic debut hit, “She’s Not There.”
No one told me about her
The way she lied
Well, no one told me about her
How many people cried
While stories abound of politicians who claim to live in given district not actually living in those districts, this is the kind of thing that often gets swept under the rug. I’ve never been quite clear why this is so. Election Code § 201 states quite clearly:
“[N]o person is eligible to be elected or appointed to an elective office unless that person is a registered voter and otherwise qualified to vote for that office at the time that nomination papers are issued to the person or at the time of the person’s appointment.”
People can and do move to a new home prior to the time that they take out their nomination papers for a new district — but this requires actually moving to a new home. As meticulously documented by Young, Mimi Walters’s official website until recently stated:
“She and her husband, David, live in Laguna Niguel with their four children.” (Complaint, Attachment D)
It now states that:
“She and her husband, David, live in the City of Irvine with their four children.” (Complaint, Attachment C)
The is not obviously untrue on the face of it — but if it is true then I have to feel quite sad for her children. After all, as shown in Attachment B of the Complaint, the apartment in Irvine has an area only 570 square feet, with one bedroom separated from a sort of living room by a divider that reaches only partway up the wall. With less than 100 square feet to them apiece, comparable to a jail cell, it must be especially galling for the four children not to be able to reside in the splendor of that 14,000 square foot manor from which they’ve been rudely uprooted.
Or — it could be a lie.
Walters is under no legal requirement that I know of not to lie on her web page to the voters in her new district about her residence, but at a minimum it seems like bad form. (As current Chair of the Senate Committee on Legislative Ethics, she presumably has ready access to someone that she can ask.)
A larger problem for Walters may be that she signed her declaration of candidacy under penalty of perjury, as required by Elections Code § 8040, and stated therein that she resides in the 37th Senatorial District. When she submitted her petition with voters’ signatures and her declaration of candidacy, she had to raise her hand and swear under penalty of perjury that she satisfied the requirements for running for the 37th Senatorial District.
If, as Young alleges, she lied about this, it’s a big deal. It could seriously bounce her from the ballot. But is it true that Walters lied about living in the 37th District?
Well, it’s too late to say you’re sorry
How would I know, why should I care
Please don’t bother trying to find her
Shes not there…oh oh oh
We’ve covered “why should I care” and why “it’s too late to say [she's] sorry” if she perjured herself (twice) about her residence, so let’s go on to “how would I know.” Young is under no obligation to provide all of his evidence in the complaint — let’s hear Walters deny it first, before she finds out what he’s got on her, heh-heh — but he sets out the basics this way. (Most of this is direct from the complaint, but I’ve simplified it slightly rather than using all of the legal language and such — hence the lack of quotation marks):
For 16 years Mimi Walters has run for office and been elected while residing in Laguna Niguel. Since 1999, Marian Walters and David Walters have owned and resided at 3 Inspiration Point, Laguna Niguel, California. The Laguna Niguel Residence is a fourteen thousand square foot Mansion located in a gate guarded development known as “Bear Brand” and sits on a 1.62 acre lot.
In 1996 Mimi Walters ran for, and was elected as a city councilperson and served there until 2004. Mimi Walters then ran for, and was elected to two two-year terms as an assembly person from Laguna Niguel. In 2008 Mimi Walters ran for and was elected as a state senator in the 33rd senatorial district as a Laguna Niguel resident.
At present Mimi Walters has two years remaining on her term as a state senator in the 33rd senatorial district.
In 2012, Mimi Walters, or her campaign committee, allegedly rented a 570 square foot studio apartment in Irvine, located at 55 Bear Paw Apt 26, Irvine California. The apartment has no dishwasher, and no washer dryer hook ups. The Irvine Apartment is not located in the 33rd Senatorial District. The Laguna Niguel Residence is not located in the 37th Senatorial District.
Don’t you feel terrible for the Walters children? No dishwasher, no washer, no dryer — and that mansion a mere half-hour south-southeast? It must seem so unfair to have gone from Bear Brand to Bear Paw!
Now here’s where a problem crops up:
If the present language on the website is truthful, and he lives in Irvine, then David Walters voted illegally when he cast a ballot in the latest election using the Laguna Niguel Residence as his place of residence.
But, in 2012, Mimi Walters signed under penalty of perjury and filed with the Orange County Registrar of Voters, a Voter Registration form that represented — or Young alleges misrepresented — that she resides at the Irvine Apartment.
So which is it? Do husband and wife reside in the same place or not? Young thinks that they do. For one thing, she didn’t change the address on her Driver’s License.
Petitioners believe and based thereon allege that Mimi Walters did not change her address with the DMV to reflect the Irvine Apartment because the rental of the Irvine Apartment was a sham and not an actual residence. Petitioners are informed and believe that instead, the DMV records reflect that Mimi Walters’ residence as the Laguna Niguel Residence rather than her sham residence, the Irvine Apartment.
Well, you might say, that’s not definitive. Probably lots of people move but fail to notify the DMV. So is that all you got, Steve Young?
No, it isn’t.
Petitioners believe and based thereon allege that Mimi Walters did not submit a change her address and mail forwarding order with her Laguna Niguel post office to have her mail redirected to the Irvine Apartment because the rental of the Irvine Apartment was a sham and not her actual residence. Petitioners are informed and believe that the United States Postal Service still lists Mimi Walters’ residence as the Laguna Niguel Residence, and not the Irvine Apartment.
Petitioners believe and based thereon allege that Mimi Walters did not change her address with her banks and investment bankers to reflect the Irvine Apartment as her residence because the rental of the Irvine Apartment was a sham and not an actual residence. Petitioners are informed and believe that instead, Mimi Walters uses her actual residence, the Laguna Niguel Residence, for her bank statements and account statements rather than her sham residence, the Irvine Apartment.
Petitioners believe and based thereon allege that Mimi Walters did not change her address with any of the Credit Card issuers whose cards she carries because the rental of the Irvine Apartment was a sham and not an actual residence. Petitioners are informed and believe that instead, Mimi Walters uses her actual residence, the Laguna Niguel Residence, for her credit card statements rather than her sham residence, the Irvine Apartment.
Petitioners believe and based thereon allege that Mimi Walters did not change her address with the Republican party of Orange County, or the State Republican Party, because the rental of the Irvine Apartment was a sham and not an actual residence.
Petitioners are informed and believe that instead, Mimi Walters uses her actual residence, the Laguna Niguel Residence, as her address for the Republican party of Orange County, or the State Republican Party rather than her sham residence, the Irvine Apartment.
And that’s just in the complaint, which again is not required to contain an exhaustive presentation of all of the evidence that Steve Young may have that he did “bother trying to find her” at the lonely and apparently empty apartment in Irvine, only to discover that “she’s not there.”
Nobody told me about her
What could I do
Well, nobody told me about her
Though they all knew
I know what you’re probably thinking: “but gee — kicking her off of the ballot? Isn’t that a bit drastic, a bit of an overreaction, a bit anti-small-”d”-”democratic?“
Not really. Those laws requiring a state legislator to reside in the district where they represent are there for a reason. It’s a small-”d” democratic reason, too — to make sure that various parts of the state are represented. And before you pooh-pooh such an idea, bear in mind that your thoughts or my thoughts or Mimi Walters’s thoughts about whether this law makes sense are beside the point. It’s the law. And Mimi Walters swore under penalty of perjury that she resides in Irvine. (She didn’t swear that he family lived there with her — she just told the whole world that on her official website.)
Isn’t it unfair to Republicans, though? No — in part because, as they song says, “they all knew.” Mimi Walters is well-known to the leaders of the County Republican Party. She’s one of their elected officials, who ran for State Treasurer two years ago, for Pete’s sake! They would have known that she wasn’t living in some puny apartment in Irvine and that she was therefore ineligible to run in the 37th Senate District — they just didn’t care.
They thought, essentially, that they would get away with it.
Well, it’s too late to say you’re sorry
How would I know, why should I care
Please don’t bother trying to find her
Shes not there….
If the courts now follow the law, then they thought wrong.
If the court agrees with Steve Young, then it’s just too late for the Republican Party to say it’s sorry and put up a new candidate. The new “Top Two” primary rules don’t allow for that. They gambled that no one would call Walters out on her apparent lie — and they lost. Young waited until the first day he could bring this suit, with the Legislature more than five days out of session — and he called them on it. And please, Republican Party, don’t bother trying to find her at the Bear Paw apartment in Irvine — she’s not there.
Well, let me tell you about the way she looked
The way she acted, the color of her hair
Her voice is soft and cool
Her eyes are clear and bright
But she’s not there…
At this point, Mimi Walters has a choice to make. She can try to brazen her way through a court challenge and hope that a smart, ambitious, meticulous, successful lawyer like Steve Young hasn’t been keeping notes on her presence (or rather absence) from Irvine for a long time. (I’d like to think that she or other Republican Party agents would not try to suborn perjury from her neighbors at this late date.)
I’ve known Steve for years and watched his practice, and that would be highly uncharacteristic of him. I don’t have inside information on what evidence may yet be brought to bear — although to be fair I did receive the complaint yesterday, as I was informed that something big was coming down the pike — but I think that Steve Young and whatever witnesses he has assembled very likely can tell a court about “the way she looked” since she swore that she had moved to Irvine, “the way she acted,” about her hair and her voice and her eyes — and that she has been residing in Laguna Niguel, not there.
I don’t want to give her legal advice, but there’s generally a good argument that when you’ve been caught breaking the law and you can get out easy, you don’t want to double down. You especially don’t want to lie in court.
If she’s off the ballot, that’s how it goes. There are, after all, worse fates. Out of humanitarian concern for a fellow human being, I truly hope that she avoids those.
[Disclaimer: I am a candidate in Orange County's other State Senate race, but I believe that my opponent, Bob Huff, does reside in our district. If any reader knows otherwise, though, you know how to find me.]