Nelson No Longer a Candidate in Judicial Race

Nick Gerda/Voice of OC

County Supervisor Shawn Nelson at a supervisors meeting.

County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who surprised many observers in February by filing paperwork to run for a Superior Court judgeship, is no longer a candidate in the June primary.

County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley confirmed through an aide Thursday that Nelson is not running for the judicial race.

March 11 was the deadline to file candidacy statements and other documents. Nelson declined to comment when reached by phone for this story.

If Nelson had stayed in the judicial race this year and won, to take office he would have had to resign his supervisor post more than two years before his term is up and trigger an election for his open seat on the Board of Supervisors.

In the lead-up to his entry into the race, questions were raised about his political fundraising, with accusations from local campaign finance watchdog Shirley Grindle that Nelson was illegally and misleadingly using his termed-out supervisor campaign committee to fundraise for a judicial race.

Following Grindle’s accusations, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ office gave Nelson the green light to proceed with his fundraising approach, citing a County Counsel memo from 2008 that officials have kept secret.

But state authorities said Nelson couldn’t continue using “Shawn Nelson for Supervisor 2018” as the name of his fundraising committee, because he wasn’t running for that office.

“If there is no intent to run for re-election in 2018, a candidate must change the committee name back to 2014,” said Jay Wierenga, a spokesman for the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). “The law requires that you have the candidate’s last name, office sought and year of election in the name.”

After the FPPC weighed in, Nelson changed his committee name back to “Shawn Nelson for Supervisor 2014,” after raising about $100,000 under the 2018 name.

Nelson’s entry into the race put him head-to-head against Senior Deputy DA Larry Yellin, who has served as head of the union for county prosecutors and public defenders.

Now, the only two candidates in the race are Yellin and Thuy Pham, a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County. With just two candidates, whoever wins the June primary wins the judgeship outright.

Update (10:08 a.m. on 4/7/16): This story has been updated to add the confirmation from Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley that Nelson isn’t running for the judicial race.

Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at ngerda@voiceofoc.org.