The race for Alameda County auditor should serve as an object lesson to politicians considering lying about their residency that rules matter and that seeking public office is not a game.
It also demonstrates the need to change state election law to allow more time for candidates to launch campaigns when incumbents opt not to seek re-election.
In this case, Patrick O'Connell, who has held the office for 28 years, took out papers to run in the June 3 election but decided to retire instead. The only person who received advance notice of O'Connell's decision was his deputy and preferred successor, Steve Manning.
Under state law, when an incumbent doesn't seek re-election, the filing deadline, which falls on a Friday, is moved to the following Wednesday. That's only five days for potential candidates to decide whether to run, pull together a campaign team and collect required signatures.
Manning had an unfair advantage, and the only candidate who challenged him was Kathleen Knox, daughter of a former Alameda County treasurer and supervisor.
Given more advance notice, other qualified candidates likely would have sought the $287,000-a-year job. Voters deserved more choice, especially since a long-term officeholder was stepping down. State law should be changed to require a longer window for new candidates if an incumbent doesn't run.
In this case, voters have no options. It turns out that Knox lives in Danville, in Contra Costa County, and, hence, is ineligible for the Alameda County office. While members of Congress need only live in the state, other elected officials must live in the jurisdiction of the seat they seek.
Kudos to District Attorney Nancy O'Malley's office for investigating quickly and filing felony charges alleging that Knox lied about her residency. Knox is entitled to a trial, but the evidence so far is damning. On Sunday, she dropped out of the race.
It's refreshing to see tough enforcement of residency rules. In 2011, Nick Nardolillo pleaded no contest to felony election fraud for falsely claiming he lived in Fremont to keep his post, salary and benefits as an elected Ohlone College trustee. In Southern California in January, a jury convicted state Sen. Rod Wright of eight felony counts for lying about living in his district.
As for the Alameda County auditor's race, Manning probably would have gotten our support over Knox even without her legal troubles. He's articulate and exceptionally well-conversant on the details of county finances. He understands the challenges ahead for the county and his role as monitor of the money.
But voters deserved more than one legitimate candidate.