Democratic state Senator Leland Yee said he would end his campaign
to become California's chief elections officer in a letter submitted
to Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office on Thursday, his attorney
Paul DeMeester told reporters.
A former San Francisco supervisor and one-time mayoral candidate,
Yee had been considered a strong candidate for the seat, but now
risks becoming the first California state senator ever suspended.
"This was a very personal decision on the part of the senator,"
DeMeester told a news conference. "This is what he wanted to do in
relation to that election for office given the circumstances of the
Prosecutors criminally charged Yee, a child psychologist, in federal
court in San Francisco on Wednesday with two felony counts of
conspiring to import and traffic in firearms and six corruption
counts. He was released on $500,000 bond.
Calls to Yee's office were not returned on Thursday. DeMeester
declined to speak about the case.
Yee's arrest deals a blow to California Democrats, whose two-thirds
majority in the state Senate was eroded when fellow senators Ron
Calderon, indicted on corruption charges, and Rod Wright, found
guilty of voter fraud, took paid leaves of absence earlier this
Democrats control large majorities in both houses of the state
legislature and all statewide offices, but having a third senator
under a cloud could seriously undermine the party's ability to push
key projects in an election year.
In the probe that led to Yee's arrest, federal authorities also
arrested Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, alleged to be the head of a
Chinese organized crime syndicate, and two dozen other people,
A criminal complaint from the U.S. Attorney's office for the
Northern District of California says that Yee, in exchange for
campaign contributions, did favors for an undercover FBI agent.
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He offered to facilitate a meeting between an undercover agent and
an arms dealer, and discussed the types of weapons the undercover
agent might need, the complaint said.
California Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg has called
for Yee's resignation and could move to suspend him as soon Friday,
said his spokesman Mark Hedlund.
The senate has never suspended a member, said Bernadette McNulty of
the Office of the Secretary of the Senate. If suspended, Yee would
still receive pay, likely until his term ends, but would not perform
his legislative duties.
Other federal and state lawmakers have called for Yee to resign or
be suspended from the sate senate.
"The allegations against Senator Yee are shocking," U.S. Senator
Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said in a statement.
"It has become clear he has lost the confidence of his colleagues
and for the good of his constituents should step down."
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Bernard Orr)
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