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Assembly candidate faces scrutiny over residency

The L.A. County district attorney's office is looking into whether GOP candidate Sunder Ramani indeed lives in the 43rd Assembly District, as he reported on voter registration and candidacy papers.

September 04, 2010|By Jean Merl, Los Angeles Times

A candidate for a Glendale-area state Assembly seat is facing scrutiny about whether he lives in the district he is running to represent, as the law requires.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office is looking into whether Sunder Ramani, the Republican candidate on the Nov. 2 ballot, lives in the 43rd Assembly District, as he reported on voter registration and candidacy papers under penalty of perjury.

David Demerjian, head of the district attorney's public integrity division, said he was checking on Ramani's residency after receiving complaints about a week ago from people claiming to have evidence that the candidate still lives in a home he and his wife own in La Cañada Flintridge, outside the district.

Ramani, 50, is a Burbank small-business owner who has long been active in Burbank and Glendale civic and business groups. He and his wife, Mandy, have owned their La Cañada Flintridge house since the mid-1990s, according to property and voter registration records.

Ramani is running against Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) in this strongly Democratic district. He lost to Gatto in a special election for the seat last spring.

Election law requires a candidate for state legislative office to live in the district he or she seeks to represent. County elections officials said that on Jan. 27, Ramani switched his voter registration from the La Cañada Flintridge address to a Burbank apartment that is inside the district.

He also listed the Burbank address on documents he filed to become a candidate, the officials said. He signed those documents under penalty of perjury on Feb. 25 and March 11, the officials said. His wife still is registered to vote at the La Cañada Flintridge address, county records show.

Those who complained to the district attorney cited information such as political campaign contributions that Ramani reported to the Federal Election Commission. FEC records show that on April 30, he gave the La Cañada Flintridge home as his mailing address when he reported two $250 contributions to the National Federation of Independent Business/Save America's Free Enterprise Trust.

Ramani said Friday that the campaign contributions are made automatically each quarter and he had not "done the paperwork" to reflect his address change.

The candidate said he spends "more than 50% of the time" at the Burbank apartment, receives his mail there and believes he is fulfilling the legal requirement to live in the district.

The issue came up during the special election campaign, Ramani said, "and I was very open and honest about it." He said he would look for a permanent home in the district if he won the election.

It is not unusual for residency to become an issue in a political contest, especially when one of the candidates has recently moved. Anyone can file a complaint, and authorities are required to look into it. Often they do not resolve such issues by election day.

"This is just political opportunism," said John S. Thomas, a political consultant who has worked with Ramani in the past and said he believes the residency complaints are untrue.

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