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Arrest Of Democrat State Senator Leland Yee Throws Party Leaders Another Curveball

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- With Democrat State Senator Leland Yee now under arrest in a federal investigation, and two other Democrat senators taking leaves of absence after criminal investigations, the problems for the majority party in the California Senate are growing and could have larger impacts.

Before Yee's arrest Wednesday, in another high profile FBI raid and subsequent arrest in June, State Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) faces political corruption charges.  He's taking an indefinite leave of absence instead of facing suspension. He'll also collect his $90,000 salary while defending himself in court.

The third black eye is Senator Rod Wright (D-Inglewood), convicted in January of eight felonies related to not living in his district. He's likewise out on a leave of absence and collecting pay until his term ends as he appeals to a judge due to sentence him on May 16th.

"California's not closely divided between Democrats and Republicans in a way that a black eye could switch the balance of power," said KCBS political analyst Mark Sandalow. "The state is so solidly democratic that the fight is which Democrats are in power, not which party's in power."

Sandalow added, that "One of the risks of being so dominant is arrogance.  Democrats may not have to worry about Republicans but if they're not careful, there will be independents and others who could pose a danger."

As for how senate Democrats will deal with the scandal, especially Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (Sacramento), he said, "You have to be careful until the facts come out.  You don't want to defend somebody simply because he plays for your team."

READ MORE: Senator Leland Yee Arrested | Senator Ron Calderon Arrested | Democrats Lose Supermajority

As for the political process in the legislature, KCBS and KPIX 5 Insider Phil Matier says, it won't have that much of an effect.

"The truth is that on the Senate floor it was never really "super" to begin with," Matier writes. "On any given day, there are splits with the moderate and super-liberal Democrats. The Republicans are still on the sidelines."

Assuming Yee is unable to vote, Democrats will now have 25 votes, and need 21 to get a majority, but there are five senators at play whose votes don't fall along party lines.


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