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

  • Bill

    Managing campaign finances ethically is the least we should expect of elected officials. If they can’t do that right, why should they be trusted with anything? Larry Yellin will make a great judge. Now we need to ensure Scott Steiner is NOT re-elected!

  • Bill

    We should all be concerned about the nepharious Scott Steiner running for re-election as a Superior Court judge. If that doesn’t worry you, nothing should!

  • Shirley L. Grindle

    I still question why Supervisor Nelson would continue to raise campaign funds in his Supervisor’s account when he is not eligible to run for Supervisor. I predicted that he was planning to transfer those funds (approximately $l63,000) into a committee to run for Judge. Since he has decided not to run for Judge, the ethical thing for Nelson to do is to give the money back to the contributors. If and when he decides to run for a Judgeship, I am sure he would have no problem in raising funds from the same contributors, but this time it would be done upfront.

    • LFOldTimer

      Won’t the ‘Ethics Commission’ ballot measure in June address that problem, Shirley?

      Oh wait….I forgot……

      • Shirley L. Grindle

        You bet it will.

        • LFOldTimer

          No it won’t.

          The supes handpick the commissioners who work at the pleasure of the Board.

          The supes pull the strings and protect their own interests.

          Those of us who pay attention have seen this charade play out repeatedly. No reason why it won’t continue at our expense.

          • Shirley L. Grindle

            Whoever you are — the proposed Ethics Commission is very restrictive as to who can be appointed. We made sure they couldn’t appoint their political cronies. We are the first Ethics Commission to place restrictions on who can be appointed — the 8 other commissions in Calif have virtually no restrictions and even those Commissions have not had interference from the politicos. Go to http://www.ethicscommission4oc, pages 2-12 to read these restrictions.

          • LFOldTimer

            Oh, nonsense, Shirley.

            The bottom line is that all commissioners are hired and fired at the pleasure of the Board. Their appointments and jobs are dependent upon the approval of the Board. And that will keep the commissioners in line to remain employed. That was a huge mistake in the design.

            It will work out the same as with the Office of Independent Review. Zero oversight except for the enemies of the Board. We saw how Board appointments of watchdogs like Stephen Connolly worked out for 8 long years. ha. We, the citizens, and the system got raked over the coals. Your Ethics Commission will be no different. Same church, different pew.

            I know you have a personal stake in this new Ethics Commission, Shirley. You were one of the designers. The rest of us don’t have to look at it through rose colored glasses. We can actually see it for the scam that it will turn out to be at our great expense.

            I will be voting in opposition in June because I’m not easily fooled. But I know it will pass because California voters mostly swallow the propaganda that they’re fed.

            The Ethics Commission = 6-figure jobs for friends of friends who do as they’re told. It will go after guys like Daly and Brandman and Guillory. The club members will be untouchable.

            More of the stinkin’ same.

          • Shirley L. Grindle

            First of all, the Commissioners are not paid. Secondly, comparing this 5-member Commission to the Office of Independent Review is not comparing apples-to-apples. You are going to be very surprised because I believe some of the first issues to be dealt with involve seated Supervisors and their use of campaign funds that violate the intent of the County’s Campaign Reform Ordinance.

          • LFOldTimer

            Oh, so the commissioners are working for free? Please explain.

            And how much is this new Ethics Commission going to cost the taxpayers, Shirley? Is that dollar figure going to be disclosed in the voter’s information guide – or is it like ObamaCare – we have to pass it first to find out?

            The OIR and the Ethics Commission are both watchdog appointments working at the pleasure of the Board. So yes, it is an apples to apples comparison.

          • LFOldTimer

            Btw, Shirley, I just read the EC ballot measure. It appears that the Executive Director (ED) of the Commission is selected by the Board and will get paid a nice fat compensation. It failed to give a number but I suspect well into $200,000 territory. Heck, OIR’s Stephen Connolly raked in $210,000 w/ a nice car allowance. And the ED has all the power w/regard to who or what gets investigated. The ED plays the music and the other commissioners dance around him. The ED is the ring leader. Since the Board selects him and pays him and he works at the Board’s pleasure- he is essentially owned by the Board. Let’s face it.
            That alone casts a dark cloud over the EC, particularly based on all the shenanigans we’ve witnessed from the Board and in county government over the years. Anyone who has bothered to pay attention would be very skeptical of the EC’s chain of command and its design.
            Sorry. Just telling it as I see it.

          • Shirley L. Grindle

            It is about time you read the EC ordinance instead of griping about everything. The expected cost of the EC is around $350,00o- most of it for a full-time Exec. Director. Unfortunately, because OC is a charter County, State law for Charter Counties requires the Supervisors to make the appointments. I am sure with your help and your wonderful attitude that the Sups will feel the heat to appoint an Exec. Director who will do the job. ED’s of the other Ethics Commissions who are also appointed by a political figure, have been able to operate independently and without political influence.
            I will be the first to tell you that the EC is not a perfect solution, but it does take over what I do and what the DA refuses to do. That in itself is worth getting this EC on the books. It also provides a safe haven to receive complaints about unethical behavior which heretofore has been covered up by upper management County employees.
            Unless you have a better solution, get off your bandwagon and help make this work.

    • John Claxton

      I still question why Supervisor Nelson would continue to raise campaign funds in his Supervisor’s account when he is not eligible to run for Supervisor.”

      Because he works hand and hand with Dennis Billsomedough, who has taught his boss a thing or two about stealing other peoples money.

  • OCservant_Leader

    Nelson’s Pension Grab is enough to disqualify him to be a judge.

    It is outrageous- that he was able to get a ballot initiative that benefited…only him…only in the OC.

    What happened to the payments the AC withheld??.

  • Jacki Livingston

    Nelson brings too much baggage to the race. All of the sups who ever worked with Janet Nguyen, Moorlach, and others, are tainted by their association. My guess is that Nelson will fade off into the background, never to be seen again.

  • Paul Lucas

    Alot of hooplah then fizzle. i wonder if he has to give any o the contributions back to his donors now?

    • LFOldTimer

      No, it isn’t like at the track if your horse is scratched from the race you get a refund. In political circles when the human contestant in the race is scratched the politician keeps your money and you eat the loss. That’s one reason I trust animals much more than humans. Animals do nothing for political reasons and won’t hose you for services unrendered. But it’s all a mute point. If voting really mattered the government would outlaw it. I recommend that you keep your money in your own pocket and never bet on a politician. Even if your bet pays off and your favorite politician wins the elected seat – if he or she reneges on the campaign promises that you predicated your contribution and vote on – you still can’t get your money or your vote refunded. Either way you get hosed. The game is fixed. Don’t get emotionally involved. It’s just not worth it. Whoever is elected you’ll get the same outcome anyway. Enjoy politics for the entertainment value alone. It’s some of the cheapest and most humorous entertainment that you’ll find in America.

      • Paul Lucas

        Sucks for the donors.

        • LFOldTimer

          It’s the only game in town that allows someone to lie to you in order to get your money and once the lie is exposed the liar cannot be sued for fraud or sent to jail. It’s one of the perks of being a lawmaker.

  • LFOldTimer

    Considering all the shenanigans coming from the DA’s office and the fact that Yellin was a union leader……Pham gets my vote.
    It would be interesting to learn why Nelson folded. As a supervisor he certainly would have given Yellin a run for his money. I’m disappointed. The back and forth would have been classic.

  • David Zenger

    Probably for the best. But it would have been fun.

  • Kathleen Tahilramani

    Nelson did not want to face Yellin. Period.

    • John Claxton

      Something is fishy. Nelson’s ego would tell him the election was in the bag. Could it be that gov Moonbeam would appoint him?