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Jon Fleischman


A lot of activity and politicking has been taking place amongst the 25 Republican members of the California State Assembly since the legislature reconvened on Monday.  But from talking to a number of sources in the Capitol, including some of the GOP Assemblymembers, it is clear that embattled Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes has conveyed to his colleagues that he will not be standing for re-election next Tuesday.  On Monday when the caucus gathered after the break Mayes’ colleagues declined to dump him on the spot (though it was a close vote) but instead called for a new election for leader in a week – an unprecedented blow to an incumbent leader.  Mayes at that meeting had said he would run for re-election.  And every caucus member being talked about to replace him voted against the “Cap and Trade” tax increase.

As word of this news has spread within the caucus, it has mostly been met with relief. Mayes, as it has been well publicized, led a group of six other Assembly Republicans to vote for a terrible “Cap and Trade” bill that will sock the the private sector for upwards of $25 billion over ten years, raise gas prices significantly (as well as prices on countless other products), have no meaningful impact on worldwide manmade carbon emissions, and provide the legislature with vast sums of money for liberal “wish list” items including billions of dollars for Governor Jerry Brown’s high speed rail boondoggle.

Mayes told his caucus that he was trying to make the best of a bad situation as a result of the passage of AB 32 and SB 32 – legislation that Mayes told many he opposed.  Yet on Monday of this week Mayes co-authored and voted for a resolution bragging about these bills, jabbing the President in the process.

The job of the Assembly Republican Leader is to well represent his entire caucus – which he did not do.  And this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  Not only were caucus members upset, but a brushfire has crossed California with the State GOP, over half of the state’s county GOP committees, and some major GOP donor groups all making public statements that Mayes needed to go.  This blowback was predictable – because everyone felt used. Everyone works hard as a GOP team to win and retain seats to stop the big government agenda of the left – but instead the work of these activists and donors was instead used to leverage a deal that was bad news for consumers – especially those on the bottom end of the economic ladder.

There is a rule of thumb when it comes to legislative leadership battles – your votes only matter when you actually take a vote.  Emerging as a strong candidate for leader is Brian Dahle who represents the far northeastern corner of California.  Dahle is a conservative who opposed the Cap and Trade fiasco, but who has stood by Mayes, and is said to have the current leader’s support to replace him, for what that’s worth.  Dahle raised eyebrows of the Capitol crowd when he came out on top of his 2012 Republican on Republican general election battle, despite wealth GOP donor Charles Munger, Jr., putting up six figures in IE money to try and stop him.  Other candidates who are contending for the job include Vince Fong of Bakersfield, a former staffer and protégé of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Jay Obernolte of Big Bear, and Melissa Melendez, a conservative firebrand from Riverside County.  Melendez resigned her leadership position after Mayes’ Cap and Trade fiasco, only to be “rewarded” by Mayes having the Speaker strip her of a key committee vice chairmanship and being relegated to the smallest office in the Capitol – aptly named The Doghouse.

As of last night the most prevalent spin was that Dahle is in a very strong position to take the leadership spot – but unless the caucus calls for an early vote, the final outcome is still days away.  And of course Mayes always could change his mind, and try to seek re-election.

All eyes will be on the new leader with the hopes that there will be a more forceful, confrontational approach taken when engaging with the Democrats, and a change in direction of how the Assembly Republican Caucus staff operation works.  Under Mayes reign and that of his predecessor, Kristin Olsen, a lot of conservative staff members were shown the door, and the way that analyses are written on legislation was changed so that in many instances they would longer make strong recommendations on bills based on a conservative point of view.

On a closing note – rumors abound that a grumpy Mayes is contemplating a temper-tantrum-like final reign of terror – asking his close friend Democratic Speaker Anthony Rendon to take away committee assignments, staffing and or premier office space of any GOP members who did not stick by Mayes as he drove the Titanic straight into the iceberg.  We’ll see if that materializes.