A Columbia woman running for State Senate has filed a lawsuit contending Republican primary opponent Tom Berryhill can’t run for the seat because he didn’t move into the 14th District soon enough.
Columbia attorney Heidi Fuller, 46, on Feb. 4 filed a petition asking the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento to uphold and enforce a section of the California Constitution requiring candidates for the State Senate or Assembly to have lived in the legislative district for one year before declaring for office.
The 14th District comprises all or parts of Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.
Fuller filed the suit against the Secretary of State and Attorney General’s offices, which she contends have not enforced the requirement.
The Attorney General’s Office declined to comment, and the Secretary of State’s Office did not return calls by press time.
Fuller is running against Assemblyman Berryhill, R-Oakdale, for the Republican nomination to succeed Sen. Dave Cogdill, of Modesto, who announced he will not seek re-election this year and is running for Stanislaus County assessor.
Berryhill spokesman Steve Presson said Fuller’s suit contradicts legal opinions from the Secretary of State’s Office, and a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a one-year residency requirement for Tennessee voters.
Presson said the Secretary of State’s office requires candidates be district residents when they file their nomination papers. Presson said Berryhill moved from Modesto to Oakdale, which is in the district, in early- to mid-January.
“Heidi Fuller’s lawsuit is frivolous, politically motivated and completely without merit,” Presson said Monday.
On her Web site, www.heidi4senate.com, Fuller posted a video-slide show calling Berryhill a “carpetbagger.”
Fuller said her lawsuit is not frivolous, that “the vast majority of districts have ruled the one year residency is constitutional,” and that “California has never considered the question.”
“I’m not asking the court to make that determination, I’m simply asking the court to enforce the Constitution,” Fuller said Monday. “The Secretary of State and the Attorney General don’t have the authority to declare a part of our Constitution null and void.”
Fuller said the Attorney General and Secretary of State have two weeks from the filing date to submit responses, then a hearing will be set in 30 to 40 days.
Fuller announced her intention to challenge Cogdill in the 14th Senate District last spring after his support of a temporary tax increase in a budget compromise.
Berryhill’s first term in the Assembly began in December 2006 and he announced his intent to run for Cogdill’s seat in early December.
Tim Campi, of San Joaquin County, has also filed paperwork to run for the Senate seat.