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Indicted non-candidate Yee polls 3rd in California race

Indicted and suspended from the California State Senate, Leland Yee still pulled down nearly 300,000 votes in the Secretary of State primary.
Indicted and suspended from the California State Senate, Leland Yee still pulled down nearly 300,000 votes in the Secretary of State primary.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Political pundits’ heads are spinning in California and elsewhere today as preliminary election results show that suspended anti-gun State Sen. Leland Yee – indicted more than two months ago on money laundering and weapons charges – pulled down more than 287,500 votes to take third place in yesterday’s Secretary of State primary, and he hasn’t been in the race since March.

After hearing the results, one Washington state gun rights proponent – a practicing attorney – quipped, “Yee have got to be kidding me!” The astonishment appears widespread.

Examiner was among the first to break the news that Yee had been arrested along with about two dozen other people in an FBI sting in late March. Yee was widely considered one of California’s most anti-gun state lawmakers who had even once been honored by the Brady Campaign.

Yet there he was, busted for allegedly trying to broker an illegal arms smuggling deal with a man who turned out to be an undercover federal agent. At the time, Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, issued a press statement blasting the senator’s apparent hypocrisy with this observation: “Guns for Yee but not for thee.”

Last night’s voting put Yee ahead of several other candidates for the Secretary of State’s job. The San Francisco Chronicle is wondering why, along with other observers.

The amazing turn of events leaves many wondering whether California voters are simply apathetic or completely uninformed. Or perhaps it was the fact that Yee retains name familiarity with so many California voters who reflexively vote for anyone with a “D” next to his name.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Yee “got solid support across much of the state, with some of his highest backing in and around his Northern California district.” He pulled 9.8 percent of the vote in San Francisco, where citizens would have to be deaf and blind to not know of his legal troubles.

Now political observers may have to take this story to a place they are reluctant to go. Yee’s ability to score that many votes suggests that nearly 300,000 Californians will likely be the target of late night comedians wondering whether they are too stupid to be allowed to vote.

Yee faces up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted of the charges. He is currently suspended from the state Senate.