Local state senator removed from key posts

March 25, 2010 7:15:55 PM PDT
A state senator from the North Bay has been removed from several important committees because of an undisclosed health condition. Even some supporters of California Sen. Pat Wiggins say it is time for her to resign.

The I-Team has been making calls on this story for several weeks. Wiggins' health condition has led to strange public outbursts, some of them caught on video. Her office announced Wednesday night that on doctor's advice she is staying home in Santa Rosa, and only traveling to Sacramento if she has to cast a vote.

Wiggins did not attend Thursday's session in Sacramento, and her spokesman says she will not attend any session or committee meeting unless her vote is needed. She will stay home in Santa Rosa, dealing with an undisclosed medical condition.

"And that is a private medical condition and I'm very confident that Sen. Wiggins is capable of being here and casting the important votes this session," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

There has been growing concern over the past few years with Wiggins' behavior. Community activist Rosa Koire, with the Santa Rosa Neighborhood Coalition, recalls a fundraiser with the senator in late 2007.

"She was staring vacantly into space, didn't know why she was there, didn't know what the purpose of the meeting was," said Koire. "It was stunning."

Through her spokesman, Wiggins denied our request for an interview today. She has been avoiding reporters for months.

Some of her public appearances have been recorded. One year ago, she was scheduled to speak at the capitol about sexual assault awareness and told the crowd, "I'm Senator Pat Wiggins, I'm with the -- I'm a senator actually." She continued by saying, "I'm just really happy that you're all here. I'm so glad that you are all here. So, bless your hearts, bless your hearts, bless your hearts."

She was a member of a committee looking into global warming when a Methodist pastor testified in August 2008. Wiggins cut him off with an expletive.

Pastor: We certainly appreciate the work that you do...

Wiggins: Excuse me, but I think your arguments are bull----.

Pastor: Well...

Chairwoman: Let me step in here Pastor Jones. We very much appreciate your presence here today.

The hearing continued as though nothing had happened.

Just last month, Wiggins exploded during a joint legislative audit committee meeting.

Committee member: As soon as possible...

Wiggins: We have to get the stupid staff.

The issue? An empty water jug. According to published reports, another female senator had to restrain Wiggins as she rushed at a staff member.

Committee member: Take on at some level this year...

Wiggins: Why are you not getting this?

Committee member: This should be helpful. So, anyway?

Wiggins: Why are you not getting it?

Committee member: Second it. What?

Wiggins had planned to run for re-election. She even launched a Wiggins for State Senate 2010 website, but then posted a message saying, "There have been some physical disabilities that I have had to contend with throughout my political career... I believe the best decision for me at this time is to announce that I will not be seeking re-election."

The question now is, should Wiggins be allowed to vote until her term expires in December?

"I think it's clear she is not capable," said Koire. "If she is not capable of governing, then she needs to step down."

"You have to be fair, there is a loss of representation here," said ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain.

Cain says there are few options for the Democratic leadership. They do not want to risk a special election to fill Wiggins' Senate seat.

"You don't know whether the Democrats are going to show up in large numbers and you don't want to set up a situation in which the party is going to lose a seat, because once that person gets that seat, it becomes harder to dislodge them, even if they're a Republican," said Cain.

Cain adds that state senators vote with their party 80 or 90 percent of the time, so unless Wiggins starts voting with the Republicans, this will probably die down now.

For more on this story, including links to raw footage of the outbursts, visit the I-Team Blog. We would like to hear what you think about this story; leave a comment on the blog or at the bottom of this page.


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