Scott Lay of ‘Inside the Capitol’ Dead at 48

This is truly tragic: Scott Lay, the owner of “Inside the Capitol” and publisher, editor, and writer of its daily publication, “The Nooner,” has died at the age of 48. Scott was an Orange Countian with roots in Placentia, as I understood it. From my perspective, he is as close to irreplaceable as any political journalist in in the state — not least because he was putting out his publication for free, asking only for nominal subscriptions from people who would in return get access to some premium material. He had more than earned any respite: to take just one example, his focus on campaign contribution reporting data, put the official CalAccess website to shame, led to reforms.

The Irreplaceable Scott Lay, who gave us the Nooner, is dead at age 48.

He had complained, in his last week of publication, of wildfire smoke in Sacramento, but his final post with new non-automated content didn’t mention his own reaction to the smoke. He ended by presenting a nice link to a timely article on the minimum wage. He greatly facilitated the process of chronicling the impending deadlines for various legislative procedures — introducing, amending, and passing bills through committees, the floors of both houses, the Governor’s desk — and discovering which bills were in trouble (and why) and which deserved notice. I cannot imagine what person — or, more likely, what squad of people — might have the knowledge and discipline and obsessiveness to take his place. And without this information so readily available and expertly curated, we will be the worse for it.

I’m still getting daily notices that The Nooner announcing that September 8 had arrived. These new editions contain nothing but material that Scott had pre-programmed to appear — a little boilerplate, classified ads — they continue to serve the purpose of telling me that it’s already noon. To me, this suggested that Scott seemed to be taking an unscheduled absence from The Nooner, as he has done from time to time — he wrote eloquently and movingly about his travails as an alcoholic, as he also did about the benefits he felt from his devotion to Buddhist practice and his vacationing in Mexico– and it was not mine to judge. I missed his take on the final week of the recall; I made a mental note to check in on him, then lost the note.

Scott was also a wonderful chronicler of life in Sacramento (he loved street tacos!) and had turned himself into one of the best sources I know of for reliable information about California wildfires. Again, click the link on his last actual publication.

A nice tribute from Anthony York, Scott’s friend and former employer at Capitol Weekly, offers more about him:

Growing up in Orange County California, he was struck with terrible asthma, and spent long stints at the local Children’s Hospital. As a young boy, he befriended many children diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis — a particularly cruel disease that strikes the young and kills most before their 20th birthday. Those were not statistics to Scott. They were his friends. Throughout his own life, Scott remained committed to raising awareness and money to fight CF. It was a cause near to his heart that he remained committed to, and raised awareness about the disease among the Capitol community.

That generosity and passion was evident in much of Scott’s pursuits. I know from experience the amount of hours he would dedicate to a new passion project, not because he expected some big financial reward, but simply for the sake of doing it. Of course, he was motivated at least in part from some of the rush that comes from putting something out into the world that other people read and react to. For all of his talents as an advocate and budget guru, Scott was a generous spirit who lived to publish. His biggest rush came from informing and entertaining others.

But he also struggled with demons that created distance with even his closest friends. While he would post enthusiastically on social media about his latest score from the farmers market, or the taco stands in front of Southside Park on Sundays, those who knew him best knew that Scott was sick.  Over the years, many of us tried to support him in efforts to confront some of those demons. We failed.

I don’t know the cause of death — but Scott had continuing pulmonary problems after spending so much of his youth at the CHOC hospital. He was exactly the sort of person that mask mandates are supposed to protect. For someone who did very so much to fight ignorance, the possibility of his dying due to the ignorance of others is hardly bearable.

Then again, that mention of “those demons” there at the end suggests self-harm — that could mean something related to long-term or binge drinking rather than something more sudden and violent — and all I can say is that if he took such a step it would have been been to enormous pain. He seemed to be very affected by the smoke from the fires up north. From that final week:

“My lungs are still crappy today without much sleep overnight. Further my excruciating pain ir” [sic].

That final sentence, presented verbatim, was not completed and had no final punctuation..

Scott and I would correspond from time to time about my questions and takes on politics. For example, on the recall:

On Thu, May 6, 2021 at 2:06 PM Greg Diamond wrote:

Hi Scott!  I hope that this finds you well.  You seem chipper these days based on your posts.

I’m hoping that you can help me with a question to which I haven’t been able to find clear (or at least evident to me) answers on the Sec of State’s site.

What happens to the recall if, at some point before the election, Newsom resigns and Eleni becomes Governor?  Is there some “point of no return” where the winner of the recall replacement race becomes Governor anyway?

If you can point me to a page with these answers, even without providing them yourself, I’d appreciate it!

On Friday, May 7, 2021, 6:49 AM, Scott Lay <> wrote:

Yeah, my shoulder is hurting again, which is not helpful with sleep. Nevertheless, I can still type!

If Newsom resigns, that would cancel the recall election since the question is particular to him.

For November 2022 ballot measures, the qualification would have to be confirmed 131 days in advance, or June 23, 2022.

On Fri, May 7, 2021 at 1:00 PM Greg Diamond <> wrote:

Thanks!  Don’t answer these if it’s too painful!

Isn’t there some “drop dead date” by which he’d have to resign to avoid the election?  Could he resign the day before Election Day if he chose — such as if the numbers look bad — and still avoid a Republican Governor?  (Not that he likely would….)

Scott Lay scottlay@gmail.comTo:Greg Diamond

Fri, May 7 at 1:25 PM

Here’s a good SOS FAQ on the recall:

The last exchange I had with Scott — which I hesitate to include, simply because it was so long and almost all from me — was came little less than a month before the election, after he returned to the above topic more earnestly:

Greg Diamond

Thu, Aug 19 at 1:59 PM

You’re still asking “Can Governor Gavin Newsom intercede by resigning between Election Day and certification of the election, giving the office to Eleni Kounalakis and then what?” So I’m finally going to take a moment to answer you.

If Newsom resigns post-election, the replacement candidate still takes office. Even if Eleni takes over, she in effect gets removed from office.

The operative law is Election Code Sec. 11302, reproduced below in full (emphasis mine):

(a) Except as described in paragraph (3) of subdivision (b), if a vacancy occurs in an office after a recall petition is filed against the vacating officer, the recall election shall nevertheless proceed.
(b)(1) Upon the occurrence of the vacancy, the elections official for each county in which a section of the recall petition has been filed shall immediately verify the signatures on the petition submitted to the elections official as of the date of the vacancy.
(2) If the elections official verifies that a sufficient number of signatures were filed as of the date of the vacancy, the recall election shall proceed.
(3) If the elections official verifies that an insufficient number of signatures, or no signatures, were filed as of the date of the vacancy, the recall election shall not proceed and a vacancy in the office that is the subject of the recall election shall be filled as otherwise provided by law.
(4) A person who was subject to a recall petition may not be appointed to fill the vacancy in the office that he or she vacated and that person may not be appointed to fill any other vacancy in office on the same governing board for the duration of the term of office of the seat that he or she vacated.

Paragraph (b)(3) would not apply, so paragraph (a) settles the question.

In my opinion, though, Newsom could readily beat the recall by resigning *before* the Election — probably announcing it on Labor Day, eight days before Election Day.

Here’s my reasoning, expressed in a recent Facebook post:

I’ve been challenged on why I’m calling for Newsom’s resignation, given that the recall DOES continue even if he resigns. Below, I’m sharing my long-ish response explaining who his resigning now helps to defeat the recall:
– – – – – – – – –

People who aren’t in deeply involved in the California Democratic Party — who so far as I tell are *pretty damned unhappy* to learn that NOT EVEN ONE QUALIFIED DEM is on the replacement ballot — will continue to gravitate towards 29-year-old Kevin Paffrath, the only Dem registering in the polls.

Curiously, and contrary to Garry South’s (and therefore Newsom’s) predictions, they WILL still vote no on the recall.
But: so many other potential Democratic voters — who have tuned out the party’s (and its allies’) frantic and confusing (“What? DON’T vote on who replaces him???”) messages to them — will NOT show up and vote (out of displeasure with Newsom, or with being extorted to vote, or out of pure normal disinterest), and the recall passes.

(1) Newsom resigns.
(2) The media goes apeshit, giving it humongous coverage.
(3) Lt. Gov Eleni Kounalakis is (re-)introduced to the public.
(4) People realize that … hey, we now have our first woman governor!
(5) Eleni says that the race is now between HER and Larry Elder — and lays out the huge differences between her and him
(6) Now that people are listening and paying attention (and receiving respect), they look seriously at their options.
(7) The recall loses — and then we fix the broken system.


Newsom will *already* have garnered the “dutiful party supporter” vote by this weekend, given the party’s foolish and insulting “NO and Go” campaign. *Those* votes are in the sack … but not enough *others* are coming, as it stands.

So, now you focus on how to get the remaining votes. You do it with Newsom making a “noble sacrifice” to save us from Elder. Eleni. riding on a wave of excitement, brings in the women’s vote, more of the ethnic vote, and the “wow, forgot we had an election!” vote by changing the story line and building the intensity.
We get two bites at this apple. Let’s use both.
Forward this around. Let’s implore Newsom to resign while it can still save us from Larry Elder!

Newsom’s trying to extort voters into voting for him with the threat of “it’s either me or Elder” is especially galling because it has prevented Eleni from (even if she wanted to, which I don’t know she does) filing for an order to disqualify the Part 2 replacement vote from the ballot on the grounds that she was *already* elected, in 2018, to fill any vacancy in the Governor’s seat if it occurred. This theory is not original with me, but the original appeared on my iPhone and I haven’t been able to find it. It turns on the interpretation of California Constitution Article II, Section 15(a), which reads (with my emphasis):

SEC. 15.
(a) An election to determine whether to recall an officer and, if appropriate, to elect a successor shall be called by the Governor and held not less than 60 days nor more than 80 days from the date of certification of sufficient signatures.

The clause “if appropriate” implies that there must be at least one instance in which a recall could not be accompanied by a replacement election, because it was not appropriate to have one. (Concluding otherwise would render it as “surplusage, violating canons of construction.) Is there any instance, ideally one that the authors of the 1911 Constitutional revision would be aware of, in which a replacement accompanying a recall would not be appropriate? Yes: for the office of Governor, because the Constitution already spells out that the duties of the Lt. Gov include replacing the Governor in the event that a vacancy occurs. This is true only of the Governor’s position, among state elected officials; it would not, for example, apply to the Speaker of the Assembly, or to the Mayor of a city that has a councilmember appointed to be Vice Mayor, because the people who would normally ascend to those offices were not elected by the public to a position in which such ascension was a defined feature of the position. Only the Lieutenant Governor is elected to a position that, constitutionally, establishes the right to ascent to another one upon its vacancy.

The problem is: can Eleni bring a case at this late moment? (She obviously knew about the election because, in a ministerial capacity, she’s the one who called it!) She could argue that it wasn’t ripe (and thus justiciable) until now, but that’s sort of weak. The fact is that she couldn’t bring such a suit even if she wanted to because Newsom wouldn’t allow it — because it would undercut his extortionate “it’s either me or a reprehensible Trumper!” appeal to voters. An outside group (composed of those of us who voted for Eleni in 2018?) might still have standing even if Eleni has waived her right to sue a “sideline sitter.”
If Newsom is recalled, I think that Eleni will try to bring this suit. I’m just not sure it will survive in court. This is why I think that Newsom won’t resign after the election: it might take away Eleni’s right to do so, because she would have already “filled the vacancy” and it might be argued that she’s already gotten what she’s due and that the recall therefore now applies to her. It’s important that the recall applies only to Newsom, if it’s already been lost, so that she can still sue about who succeeds him — her or Elder/whoever — once he’s out of office.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested. You’re welcome to use this if you’d like; it’s mostly already on my site (and I grant you license for that) or on Facebook (ditto.) I hope that the smoke up there abates soon!

P.S. Can’t recall which address to use, so I’m using all of the three I have for you.

Scott Lay <>

To: Greg Diamond

Fri, Aug 20 at 6:47 AM

Good catch!

And that was that. (Another of my sometime sources, Erwin Chemerinsky, thought otherwise. He thought that the whole replacement election was unconstitutional. The final official answer from the Secretary of State’s office was that they’re not sure.)

I hope that someone provides funds for people with expertise in the Legislature (i.e., not me) and style and wit to put out a friendlier-to-read version of the publicly available information that Scott expertly and interestingly digested for us. The cost might be unexpectedly high, but without it we will all be the poorer. Ave atque vale, Scott Lay!

UPDATE: Someone finally got access to Scott’s account and added Anthony York’s tribute above, as well as this:

September 20, 2021

Scott was passionate about expanding access to education for all and to fighting Cystic Fibrosis. If you’d like to donate in his memory, you can give to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation here.

Scott also fought hard to ensure higher education was available to all, and benefitted and believed in the mission of California Community Colleges. Orange Coast College is accepting donations to the Orange Coast College Foundation Scholarship Fund for the Scott Lay Memorial Scholarship. Online gifts can be made at

or mailed to:

Orange Coast College Foundation – Scott Lay Memorial Scholarship

2701 Fairview Road

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Plans for a service to celebrate Scott’s life are still being made. Look for updates in this space of email anthonyyork1[at]

We will try to keep you informed of any publicly available service or memorial in Orange County.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)