Neil Kitchens—a Prunedale resident who ran unsuccessfully against Robert Rivas in the 2018 race for state assembly—pleaded guilty to felony election fraud on election day 2020, according to authorities.
Kitchens, 53, entered a plea on Nov. 3 of no contest to one count of filing a false declaration of candidacy, a felony violation of the state election code, according to a press release from Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine M. Pacioni’s office. The crime is related to his candidacy in the 2018 election for the 30th Assembly District, in which he ran as a Republican.
Kitchens will likely face a felony probation sentence, though the crime carries a maximum penalty of three years in jail, according to the DA’s office. Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta will sentence Kitchens at a hearing on Jan. 26, 2021. Kitchens will also be sentenced on an unrelated misdemeanor DUI.
According to Article IV of the California Constitution, a state assembly candidate must be a U.S. citizen, a resident of California for three years, a resident of the legislative district for one year and a registered voter in that district at the time nomination papers are filed, authorities said.
In 2018, the 30th Assembly District—which includes all of San Benito County, most of Monterey and part of Santa Clara County—had an open seat. Kitchens, however, did not live in the district, authorities said. Instead, he lived in Prunedale, which is in the 29th District.
Kitchens knowingly filed falsified candidacy papers and listed a Salinas address as his residence so that he would be eligible for the seat, according to the DA’s office. By doing so, he perpetrated a fraud upon the approximately 460,000 voters in District 30.
This case arose out of a citizen complaint, the press release states. “The integrity of the election process serves as a bedrock of democracy in the United States of America,” reads the DA’s press release. “Those who seek to undermine the legitimacy of our democracy will be held accountable under the law.”