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Assembly Speaker Rendon Fends off Rivas to Keep His Crown



Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, fended off the challenge of Salinas Democrat Robert Rivas on Tuesday. (AP/Rich Pedroncelli, CalMatters/Miguel Gutierrez Jr.)
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After a weekend of lobbying, jockeying, and speculating, then a flurry of parliamentary maneuvers and a six-hour closed-door caucus meeting on Tuesday, California Assembly Democrats finally came to a decision about who ought to serve as speaker.

The answer: The current speaker, Anthony Rendon.

Ben Christopher

Cal Matters

The announcement came not with a bang but a whimper: At 8 p.m., Rendon and his would-be successor, Salinas Democrat Robert Rivas, issued a joint statement.

From Rivas: “I agree with the majority of our current caucus that Speaker Rendon should remain as Speaker for at least the rest of this legislative session.”

Translation: There’s always 2023.

From Rendon: “I applaud Robert Rivas for securing the support of a majority of the current Democratic Caucus to succeed me as Speaker of the Assembly.”

Translation: Nice try. Maybe next time.

If you need a quick refresher: On Friday, Rivas announced that 34 of the Assembly’s 58 Democrats supported him to become the next speaker. Rendon refused to acknowledge the declaration publicly. All manner of machinations and mishigas ensued.

Not All Bad News for Rivas

It may not be entirely bad news for Rivas. A majority of the current caucus really does want him (for now) to become the next speaker (at some point). The question is whether that will still hold true once other ambitious members start jockeying again — and after 13 current Assembly Democrats leave after this session. With the exodus of lawmakers this year, the internal caucus politics could be very different in 2023.

Watch the money: Since 2019, Rivas has transferred $400,000 from his own campaign account to candidates and Democratic Party organizations, including nearly $200,000 to Assembly candidates. But Rendon and other aspiring speakers may want to throw some campaign cash around, too.

My heroic colleague, Alexei Koseff, spoke to Rivas Tuesday night after all the drama.

Rivas: “This is an important first step in working with Speaker Rendon to build a transition that works…There’s going to be a large class coming in, and I’m excited to work with them and start to plan for the future.”

But some of Rendon’s allies don’t have a transition in mind. Sacramento Democrat Kevin McCarty told Alexei that Rendon plans to run again for speaker next year.

McCarty: Rendon “has a big lead over anyone who wants to be the next speaker.”

About the Author

Ben Christopher covers California politics and elections. Prior to that, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state’s economy and budget. Ben also has a past life as an aspiring beancounter: He has worked as a summer associate at the Congressional Budget Office and has a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkeley.

About CalMatters

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.

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