In a swipe at a potential rival for the 51st congressional district, Sen. Juan Vargas issued an oddly-timed press release Monday demanding that "termed out, drunk-driving legislators" step down from the California Unemployment Appeals Board.
Vargas, D-San Diego, went on to list six former lawmakers on the seven-member board, with the parenthetical note "Drunk-driving arrest" next to the names of former Sens. Roy Ashburn and Denise Moreno Ducheny.
Ashburn's 2010 DUI is widely remembered in the Capitol, but Ducheny's March 2000 DUI arrest is not common knowledge. Vargas has already announced he will run for the newly drawn San Diego-based 51st congressional district. One of his chief rivals is expected to be Ducheny, another Democrat who was termed out of the Senate last year.
Vargas scheduled a 1 p.m. press conference in San Diego to announce he will write legislation to eliminate the unemployment appeals board, and he demanded that all members step down immediately. It is highly unusual for a lawmaker to spend the first business day after legislative session discussing a bill that he intends to pursue next year.
"It is time to stop this wasteful board from being the place where termed out, drunk-driving legislators get an easy government job and get paid $128,000 per year at taxpayers' expense!" Vargas "exclaimed" in a statement. "Every year it's considered for dissolution by the Administration but this year, I will author a bill so that our legislature can decide to eliminate this board once and for all."
Vargas denied that the effort was meant to target Ducheny, saying that the timing of the announcement was in response to the Senate's recent vote to confirm Ashburn and another appointee to the board.
"We just appointed Ashburn and everyone said, 'How is he qualified when he just had a drunk driving (offense) when he was a legislator?" Vargas said, though it was unclear whether such comments were publicly made during the floor vote. The Senate approved Ashburn's appointment on a bipartisan 31-4 vote last month; Vargas abstained.
He said Ducheny's decade-old arrest was included in the release because "everybody knows about" it and he "wanted to make sure that we didn't just attack the Republicans."
"If the board is going to exist, at least they shouldn't have people there that have committed a crime," he said.
Ducheny dismissed Vargas' announcement as a "disrespectful" effort to "grandstand for what is clearly political reasons."
"It's a shame that somebody would take on a whole system and a board that protects the due process rights of workers just to make a personal attack for his political gain," she said. "It was written about me and so he's attacking all of my colleagues because he wants to get to me."
Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.
Editor's note: This post was updated at 2:44 p.m. with added quotes from Ducheny and Vargas.