Should Assemblyman Tim Donnelly decide to run for the state Senate in the suddenly available 21st District, his place of residency is more likely to turn into a campaign issue than an eligibility one.
The Twin Peaks politician, faced with an expiring term, revealed to the Daily Press earlier this month that he had not ruled out seeking to fill the seat being vacated by state Sen. Steve Knight, who was recently elected to Congress.
But according to his Assembly website and the 2014 California Primary Ballot, Donnelly does not live in the 21st Senate District encompassing the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor valleys — he lives in the San Bernardino Mountains.
The 21st district borders Highway 173 to the south, while mountain communities including Twin Peaks fall within the boundaries of the 23rd Senate District, according to district maps.
But if Donnelly moves into the district before the election, the length of his residency is not likely to be contested by the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters or the Secretary of State, Victor Valley College political science professor David Dupree said.
The Secretary of State’s office has said that provisions in the California Constitution which require candidates to have lived in their legislative district for one year “violate the U.S. Constitution and are unenforceable.”
“For Donnelly, the more difficult test may be in front of voters and his fellow candidates in that special election,” Dupree said. “If Donnelly cannot substantiate his residency in the district, any candidate who runs against Donnelly should certainly make his residency an issue.”
Donnelly did not respond to a message seeking comment this week.
Gov. Jerry Brown will issue a proclamation no more than two weeks after Knight resigns from his Senate seat, a move expected to happen sometime before he is sworn into Congress.
A special election will then have to occur between 126 to 140 days after that proclamation, according to state elections code.
Knight has two years remaining in his term.
A former gubernatorial hopeful, Donnelly has wide support in the GOP stronghold 33rd Assembly District where he two years ago routed general election opponent John Coffey by an 18-point margin.
But more than two-thirds of registered voters in the 21st Senate District reside in Los Angeles County, according to the Secretary of State, which could pose problems for prominent names in San Bernardino County who throw their hat in the race.
Hesperia Mayor Pro Tem Eric Schmidt said last week that he was seeking the seat, and only Star Moffatt, a part owner of a Lancaster-based law firm, has also publicly stated intentions to run.
KHTS Radio in Santa Clarita reported Friday that both Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford and Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris were considering their options.
A Palmdale High School graduate, Knight was a former Palmdale City Councilman before his election to the state Assembly in 2008 and state Senate in 2012.
Shea Johnson may be reached  at 760-955-5368 or Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.