California Democrat says he has votes to be Assembly speaker
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California lawmaker made a play for the top leadership post in the state Assembly on Friday, announcing he had secured enough votes among the Democrat-dominated chamber to succeed the current speaker.
Assemblymember Robert Rivas, a Democrat from Hollister, said in a news release he had enough votes from the Democratic Caucus to replace Anthony Rendon, who has been speaker since 2016 but does not have to leave office until he is termed out in 2024.
Rivas said he met with Rendon on Friday morning “to begin discussions on a transition,” though Rendon’s office has stayed silent and not responded to requests for comment.
Rivas would not become speaker unless voted in by his colleagues. Lawmakers adjourned Friday for the long holiday weekend and are not scheduled to return until Tuesday.
“Anthony Rendon has been an effective and unifying Speaker, and I am grateful to him for his steady leadership, and I am confident a smooth transition of power is a shared value of ours,” Rivas said in a news release.
Democratic Assemblymember Evan Low, who lost a committee post last year in a rumored clash with Rendon, said he supports Rivas’ bid for the post. He said the timing of the transition and the formal caucus vote are being negotiated “all in real time.”
“This is about unity, unifying our caucus, and bringing us all together, and that’s what the next speaker is dedicated towards,” Low said.
Low wouldn’t say that unity is lacking now, nor would he criticize Rendon’s leadership. Rather, he portrayed it as a natural progression with Rendon termed out of office in 2024.
“Part of it is also, when you’re looking at the election coming up, you have close to 25-plus new members of the Legislature coming in,” Low said. “And it’s important for governance that there’s stability, institutional knowledge that we can onboard the next class.”
State lawmakers in California are limited to 12 years in office. Rendon has been in office since 2012, part of a large number of Democrats elected that year who would be termed out in 2024. Many of Rendon’s colleagues who were elected with him have already left office or are planning to leave as they near their term limits, which has eroded Rendon’s base of support.
The change could come during a tense time of the legislative calendar as lawmakers must pass an operating budget by June 15 or forfeit their salaries. Legislative leaders have been negotiating with Gov. Gavin Newsom — negotiations that could be upended with a leadership change in the Assembly.
A key disagreement in the budget is how to distribute billions of dollars in tax rebates meant to provide relief for rising prices because of inflation, including at the gas pump. Newsom wants the money to go to people who own cars, while lawmakers want to direct it to taxpayers who make below a certain income.
Rivas was first elected to the Legislature in 2018. His district includes San Benito County and parts of Monterey, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. In a news release, Rivas said he would be the “first California State Assembly Speaker in the modern era to represent a rural district.”