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SACRAMENTO � Want to run for judge in Los Angeles County this year? Get ready to fork over $45,000 or more, unless a bill to tweak California’s campaign law passes soon. This is the first year that judicial candidates have to deal with lawmakers’ 2004 decision to stop requiring judicial candidates to file paperwork declaring their intent to run for office. The filings alerted incumbents and opponents to the potential challenge, giving them time to raise enough money to pay for a ballot statement highlighting their accomplishments or qualifications. That statement comes with a hefty price tag in some urban counties. Candidates for countywide offices in Los Angeles will pay up to $90,000 this year to include their statements in English and Spanish sample ballots sent to more than 3 million registered voters, according to the registrar’s office. Without the notice-of-intent requirement, judicial candidates may not know until the March 10 nomination filing deadline whether they’ll have competition. And if they don’t know, judges say, they’ll have to find the thousands of dollars to file a ballot statement � even if they end up unopposed. Counties will refund ballot-statement fees to judges who don’t face challenges. But that still leaves candidates with the potential need to fund raise or borrow money, which may involve fees and interest payment, judges say. “Without [a] change, a judge, to be very cautious, may feel a need to write a ballot statement, get all the nomination signatures necessary and come up with $60,000 or more in cash without even knowing if it’s all necessary,” said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Terry Friedman, president of the California Judges Association. To avoid that situation, the association is backing emergency legislation that would give judicial candidates until March 15, an extra five days past this year’s primary election filing deadline, to file a ballot statement. Those five days will free many judicial candidates, who often run unopposed, from having to scramble for filing money. “I don’t think we want to be encouraging judges to fund raise any more than they need to,” said state Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Marina del Rey. Assembly Bill 1129 only applies to judicial candidates. Supporters argue that candidates for most other countywide offices, such as sheriff or supervisor, almost always face competitive races and as a result start raising campaign cash far in advance of a filing deadline. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Dennis Mountjoy, R-Monrovia, only affects this year’s elections. Bowen and others have said they’ll seek a long-term solution with later legislation. “This is sort of a small and simple fix,” Friedman said. AB 1129 has drawn no official opposition. The state Senate approved the measure 33-0 on Thursday. The Assembly is expected to consider the bill next week.

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