A challenger in the 72nd Assembly District race charged Friday that incumbent Ross Johnson (R-Brea) does not maintain his primary residence in the district, a charge Johnson angrily denied.
Candidate Howard Garber, an Anaheim Hills resident, filed a complaint with the Orange County district attorney's office this week saying that the Brea address Johnson lists as a primary residence is really the home of Johnson's administrative aide, Phil Miller.
"He lives up in Sacramento, his kids graduated from school up there. He's a professional politician, lock, stock and barrel," Garber, a longtime North County political activist, said at a press conference in front of the building Johnson lists as his district address.
Johnson, a former Republican Assembly leader, called the charges false. "I am absolutely at a loss to explain this. Dr. Garber has been running for several months. He could have come up with something better than this," he said.
Johnson said that he and his wife, Diane, have shared the two-bedroom apartment in Brea's Raintree apartments with longtime aide Miller on weekends since they sold their house in La Habra in the mid-1980s and bought a house in Sacramento.
"I have seen more of my family since they have been in Sacramento. I am in Sacramento more than I am here. That is the job I am paid to do," Johnson said. "I am with the Legislature the nine or 10 months of the year it is in session."
Johnson said he spends the majority of his workweek in Sacramento, returning to Brea on Thursday night or Friday morning for the weekend.
Both Johnson and Miller say they reside in the building on a month-to-month basis without a lease. Raintree apartment management officials would not confirm the information or say who does live in the apartment, saying that building tenants have a right to privacy.
Shirley Washington, a spokeswoman for the California secretary of state's office, said state election law requires that legislators' primary residences be in the cities where they are registered to vote.
"The only way to solve this is to complain to the local legal system," Washington said. "It is one man's word against another and the burden of proof is on the complainant."
Guy Ormes, head of the special assignments section in the district attorney's office, said the office is examining Garber's complaint.
Johnson was first elected to the Assembly in 1978. The conservative Republican represents Brea and Fullerton and served as his party's leader in the Assembly from 1988 to 1991.