Monday, November 20, 2023






There’s no doubt that if interim Democratic Sen. LaPhonza Butler, appointed in October to occupy the late Dianne Feinstein’s California seat in the U.S. Senate, had opted to try keeping the job for the next full term, her residency would have become a major campaign issue.


        That’s because Butler, who lived many years in Los Angeles before moving to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 2021, had to re-register to vote in California before accepting her appointment from Gov. Gavin Newsom. She moved to Maryland to do her former job as head of the Emily’s List political action committee, a 3 million-member group that raised more than $44 million for liberal female candidates in 2022.


        It’s true, the U.S. Constitution does not require senators to be registered voters in the states they represent, but only to be “inhabitants.” Since Butler appears to have moved back to California just before her appointment, she probably qualifies. But the whole point became moot for Butler when she opted out of next year’s campaign.


        Residency also could have been an issue between Democratic Congress members Adam Schiff of Burbank and Katie Porter of Irvine, the current polling favorites to face off next November in the race to replace Feinstein long term. But it won’t be.


        Porter led Schiff by one point in one major survey late this fall and Schiff led Porter by three in another. Porter leads among younger voters in both the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll and that of the Public Policy Institute of California, while Schiff had wide margins among voters aged 50 and up.


        Recent entrant Steve Garvey, the Republican former all-star Dodgers and Padres first baseman, was about seven points back of the pair in both surveys, just ahead of Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland.


        What about the residency of Schiff and Porter? (Lee and Garvey have no such issue.) First, residency can be important. Only about 10 years ago, then-Democratic state Sen. Roderick Wright of Inglewood lost his seat after being convicted of listing an old residence within his district as his primary home, but a court ruled he actually lived elsewhere. Former legislator and Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcon also lost his council seat soon after it was discovered he lived outside his district.


        Schiff’s issue with this could have been that mortgage records show he sometimes claimed a house in suburban Maryland as his primary residence, while at other times stating a 650-square-foot condominium he owns in Burbank is his primary home. In 2020, he listed the Maryland house as a secondary residence. So, which is it?


        Meanwhile, Porter, still on leave from a teaching job at UC Irvine’s law school, lives in the school’s University Hills housing development, where she bought a home at below market price in 2011, part of UC’s effort to make housing affordable for new faculty members. Some have questioned her right to keep living there after almost five full years in Congress. When they eventually sell, buyers of such houses cannot reap the same level of capital gains as people who buy market rate property elsewhere.


        Whenever Porter decides to move out, she will have to offer her four-bedroom house first to UCI faculty or staff or the university itself. But her defeated 2022 reelection opponent, Republican Scott Baugh, questioned her right to keep living there. Baugh currently seeks the seat Porter will vacate at the end of 2024.


        Other current non-teachers also live in University Hills, including retired faculty and surviving spouses of faculty members who have died.


        Said Baugh in 2022, “(Porter) should have given up this taxpayer subsidized housing benefit four years ago when she was elected.”


        But university policy says faculty on unpaid leaves, like Porter, can stay.


        Chances are that unless Garvey soon makes a charge and slugs his way into a Top Two slot in the November election, this will not become a big issue between Schiff and Porter, despite the awkward positions of both.


        Why? People who live in glass houses usually are wise enough to avoid throwing stones.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit


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