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Assemblywoman can be 'small-business owner' on ballot, judge says

April 2, 2012 | 11:56 am

Assemblywoman Beth Gaines (R-Rocklin) won a court fight to list her occupation on the ballot as "small-business owner"
On Thursday, lawyer Brian Hildreth tried unsuccessfully to persuade a judge to prevent congressional candidate Jose Hernandez from describing himself as an "astronaut/scientist/engineer" on the ballot.

On Monday, he was back in court playing defense for Assemblywoman Beth Gaines (R-Rocklin), who was fighting to list her occupation as "small-business owner." This time, Hildreth and his client were successful, knocking down a challenge from Andy Pugno, another Republican running in the 6th District primary.

A lawyer for Pugno, Steve Greene, argued that Gaines shouldn’t identify herself as a "small-business owner" on the ballot because she's also a full-time lawmaker. In addition, he said, it was suspect that she and her husband incorporated their insurance business shortly before she needed to file her candidacy.

"If I was going to go out and buy a few cows, does that make me a cattle rancher?" Green asked.

Hildreth defended Gaines, saying her description is much different from "plucking 'astronaut' out of thin air," a joking reference to Thursday’s case.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny didn't hesitate before denying Pugno’s petition, saying there was little chance of voters being misled by how Gaines describes herself on the ballot.

Such cases are an annual ritual in California politics. All candidates are required to list their occupations on the ballot, so they try to get the upper hand by describing themselves in the most favorable light.

Pugno, a lawyer behind the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, seems to think "small-business owner" is a winning description -- that's how he's identifying himself on the ballot, because he owns his own firm.


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-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Photo: Voters casting ballots in Venice in 2010. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times