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Bermudez leads the term-limits two-step

This week, Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez, D-Norwalk, became the latest poster
child for legislators trying to stay in office.

First, he filed a petition to recount the votes in his razor-thin loss to
fellow Assemblyman Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, for state Senate in June.

Second, he filed paperwork to run for the Assembly again–in 2012.

That would be six years, two gubernatorial and two presidential elections
away. According to the secretary of state’s office, no other candidate has
filed papers to run for any office in the state in that election cycle.
“It is just to move the money around. It is just a placeholder,” says
Bermudez. “It’s a placeholder. It’s placeholder. It’s placeholder. I don’t
think there is much of a story there.”

But others see a more sly electoral calculation–leading Bermudez back to the
Senate seat he barely missed this year.

Here’s the math: In 2012, Tony Mendoza, who is likely to replace Bermudez in
the Assembly, will himself be termed-out. Bermudez, who has served four
years in the Assembly and has two years left before being termed-out, could
succeed Mendoza. Then in 2014, when Calderon is termed out of the Senate,
potentially sitting Assemblyman Bermudez would be the heir apparent.

“Unlike the many people who say the Legislature is only interested in the
short-term, these are legislators looking well into he long-term,” says
Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies.

Bermudez is hardly the only soon-to-be-unemployed legislator that seems to
be looking for more legislative work.

Assemblyman Johan Klehs, D-San Leandro, who finished second in a three-way
primary for the Senate this year, filed paperwork two weeks ago to seek a
neighboring Senate seat in 2008. Klehs, who would have to move to run for
Senate in two years, declined to comment for this story.

“He’s exploration all of his options,” said Klehs spokeswoman Christine
Gasparac.

Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Sunol, who finished third in a three-way contest for
lieutenant governor this June, has filed paperwork to run for the Assembly
in 2008. Like Bermudez, she has one Assembly term remaining. A Figueroa
spokesman said that though the committee was formed, the senator will not
seek another term.

“She has no intention of running for the Assembly,” said Jeff Barbosa, a
Figueroa spokesman. The senator herself declined to comment.

With California’s complex campaign-finance laws, created by Proposition 34,
candidates are forced to create new political committees lest they lose any
leftover campaign funds. That, combined with ambitious politicians and the
near-endless game of term-limits musical chairs, has resulted in numerous
bizarre political committees.

Former Senate leader John Burton, known for his foul-mouth, has an account
to run for California’s top schools post, superintendent of public
instruction, in 2010. Few expect that candidacy to materialize.

Looking solely at established campaign committees, Senate President Pro Tem
Don Perata, D-Oakland, and Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman, R-Irvine,
could reunite in 2010 on the Board of Equalization. Again, not likely.

Then there’s Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, the East Bay legislator who has
candidate accounts to run for different offices in 2004, 2008 and 2010.

Torlakson is termed out of the Senate in 2008, but because he only served
four years in the Assembly he plans to return to the lower house for a
two-year stint. Close Torlakson ally Mark DeSaulnier, who won the Democratic
primary this June for Torlakson’s old Assembly seat, is not expected to
oppose Torlakson for Assembly in 2008, but to run instead for the then-open
Senate seat.

Two years later, Torlakson, aided by his post as an incumbent assemblyman,
would run for superintendent of public instruction, an account he already
has established.

“The reason for the committees is it allows him to raise money while in
office but not to alienate other persons in office,” says Stern
“Politicians have a lot more leverage while still in office.”
Other candidates are simply hedging their bets.

In one of the few competitive general election seats this fall,
Assemblywoman Lynn Daucher, R-Brea, will square off against former
Assemblyman Lou Correa, a Democrat, in Senate District 34.

But if Daucher, who rented an apartment in Fullerton and registered to vote
there to qualify as a candidate in this year’s race, loses, she can always
run again in two years.

After all, she already has a Senate account to run in Senate District 29 in
2008, when, presumably, she would re-register to vote in Brea.

In Los Angeles, three would-be senators and current members of the Assembly,
Fran Pavley, Paul Koretz, and Lloyd Levine, have all established accounts to
run in Senate District 23 in 2008.

Meanwhile Stuart Waldman, Levine’s chief of staff, already has established
an account to run for Levine’s Assembly seat in 2008–though Levine has yet
to win re-election this year.

Sometimes, the term-limits shuffle is a family affair.

Down in Kern County, Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, has mapped out a route for
himself, his mom and his former chief of staff to all serve in Sacramento.
Here’s Florez’s not-so-secret plan: Assemblywoman Nicole Parra is termed out
of the Assembly in 2008, when Florez says his mom, Fran Florez, the mayor of
Shafter, will run for that Assembly seat.

Fran Florez will occupy that seat for two years, until Florez is termed out
of the Senate in 2010. Mom will succeed son in the Senate and Kern County
Supervisor Michael Rubio, a former Florez staffer, will run for Assembly.
Of course, with the Legislature considering term-limits extensions and
handing over the power of redistricting to an independent commission,
everything doesn’t always work out as planned.


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