SACRAMENTO — Republican Sen. H.L. Richardson, accused of trying to intimidate legislators who refuse to tell him if they support Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird, was denounced Thursday for failing to declare his own position on issues by frequently missing Senate votes.
"I'd like to know how he would have voted on some of the crucial issues had he been here on the floor," complained Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), pointing to Richardson's empty seat in the Senate chamber.
She criticized Richardson, who heads a statewide anti-Bird committee, for attempts to "intimidate" fellow lawmakers by sending letters asking them how they will vote on Bird's confirmation election in November and then failing to cast Senate votes on important legislation himself.
Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) joined in the criticism, noting that Richardson of Glendora, a candidate in the GOP primary for lieutenant governor, is "seldom here" to vote.
Roberti later approved Richardson's request to be absent Thursday for personal reasons. Richardson was reported to be in the San Bernardino area and was not available for comment.
It was his 18th absence from a Senate floor session since Dec. 1, 1984. Records compiled by Legitech, a private information gathering service, show that since then, Richardson has not voted on 75% of the issues up for roll calls.
No other senator even comes close to Richardson. The next worst compilation belongs to Sen. Bill Greene (D-Los Angeles), who was missing in 31% of the roll calls during the same period, Legitech said.
The letter that Watson said she found offensive was signed by Richardson and sent by his Campaign to Defeat Rose Bird, an arm of the Law and Order Campaign Committee. It carried this warning to legislators:
"For the last time, we are asking for your views on this most important election. If we do not have your response by March 14, we will begin a 'voter awareness' project in your district."
Chief of Staff
Richardson's chief of staff, Mike Carrington, said the attack by Watson showed that legislators "are feeling the heat" generated by Richardson's anti-Bird campaign.
Carrington claimed that although Richardson missed numerous Senate votes, most of them were relatively insignificant matters--"Mickey Mouse resolutions." On "anything important, he is always there," Carrington said.