- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A 2011 surveillance video shows a woman with a bag walking into a Neiman Marcus store and trying on clothes. She buys some items and returns others before being stopped outside the high-end department store by security workers.

The woman was then-state Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, who pleaded no contest in the shoplifting case a few months later and was placed on three years’ probation.

Now, the Democrat is asking voters in state Senate District 10 in the San Francisco Bay Area to send her back to the Legislature.

Her campaign in the June 3 primary election has the potential to become yet another black eye for the Senate, where three Democrats have been charged in felony cases and suspended.

In recent months, two senators pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges, while another is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of voter fraud and perjury.

If elected, Hayashi would still be on probation for misdemeanor grand theft when she is seated in December.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg declined to comment about whether a Hayashi win in the district would hinder his efforts to rebuild public trust in the 40-member chamber.

After the suspensions, Steinberg ordered senators and staff members to take an ethics training class and cancelled the caucus’ most lucrative fundraiser. In addition, a number of campaign finance reforms and ethical practices have been proposed in recent months.

Meanwhile, Hayashi’s Democratic opponent, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, has exploited her run-in with the law by posting a two-minute clip of the surveillance tape - complete with narration and suspenseful music - on the website MugShotMary.com.

The posting also notes that Hayashi was arrested during her final term in the Assembly and says she walked out of the store with a white blouse, black skirt and leather pants worth nearly $2,500.

“Do we really need another criminal representing us in Sacramento?” the website asks.

Hayashi’s well-funded campaign has fought back, accusing Wieckowski through campaign mailers and the website Bob-The-Bully.com of bullying women and minorities.

Her BobProtectedRapists.com website hits the bankruptcy attorney for casting the lone committee vote against a bill that prevents people convicted of sexually assaulting a spouse from receiving alimony after a divorce.

Wieckowski said it’s fair to question Hayashi’s fitness for the Senate seat if there is doubt about her honesty and integrity - especially after the suspensions of the three senators.

“It tarnishes the Legislature as well as city councils and school boards because we lose the public trust and we lose the confidence people have in us to govern,” he said.

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