Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) managed to hold off Assemblyman Robert Rivas (D-Salina) from taking over as Speaker by reaffirming majority support, following a six-hour closed door meeting on Tuesday in Sacramento.
The takeover bid by Rivas had only started in earnest last Friday when he announced that 34 of 58 Assembly Democrats had pledged to back him to become speaker, including the heads of most of the caucuses in the Assembly. The announcement left lawmakers reeling with Rendon, Rivas, and others quickly jockeying to get the support of Democrats and Republicans. This all led to a meeting late Tuesday held in private, away from the press.
As of Wednesday it is still not known exactly what was discussed. However, by late evening, Rendon’s demeanor finally changed with applause breaking out from the Democratic Caucus room. Then, instead of an official announcement from the Caucus, both Rendon and Rivas finally gave statements which showed that despite having enough Democratic support to spur an Assembly vote, there would be no change of Speaker in 2022.
“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,” said Assemblyman Rivas in a statement late Tuesday. “I look forward to working with him for the betterment of California and the unity of the Assembly Democratic Caucus.”
Speaker Rendon almost immediately followed him in issuing a statement, saying that “I applaud Robert Rivas for securing the support of a majority of the current Democratic Caucus to succeed me as Speaker of the Assembly. Assemblymember Rivas has brought together a broad and diverse coalition that reflects the high esteem in which he is held by our colleagues.”
— Anthony Rendon (@Rendon63rd) June 1, 2022
While seemingly diplomatic, Capitol insiders noted that the exchange between the two was anything but.
“Rendon is still very powerful and managed to get Rivas to back down,” explained “Dana,” a state capitol staffer, to the Globe on Wednesday. “It’s an odd time for Democrats. As this proves, they have been holding off a splintering with the party for some time. Since Rivas said he won’t be trying until next year, you can bet that the elections had something to do with it. I mean, the primary is under a week away now. They don’t want any shakeups that can hurt them now and especially in November.”
“I’m sure the budget deadline had to be a part of this too, but party unity in an election year, even if not directly invoked, likely played a major part in all of this.”
Looking ahead to next few years for Speaker leadership change
With 13 current Democratic Assembly members not running this year, and Rendon on his way out anyway in 2024, Rivas may try again next year. In another statement on Wednesday, Rivas stressed working with all incoming Assembly members and trying to find a future transition away from Rendon as Assembly Speaker.
“This is an important first step in working with Speaker Rendon to build a transition that work,” added Rivas on Wednesday. “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.”
However, other Assembly members quickly noted Wednesday that Rendon has no plans to step down in the next few years, and, barring an Assembly loss, will be running for Speaker again next year. And if it comes down to Rivas and Rendon again, a new Assembly makeup could prove to make it a different election.
“Rendon has proven that A) he won’t go down without a fight and B) he holds grudges,” continued Dana. “Let’s not forget what he did to [Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Cupertino] last year. After Low tried to get the Speaker position and failed, Rendon moved him off of Committee leadership positions. We may see Rivas suddenly get some unexpected bad news later this year and next year, like not getting assignments he wants or being moved to a less powerful position.”
“We will need to watch out for another fight over the Speaker position next year because this isn’t over. Even if it isn’t Rivas, the pledge showing proved that Rendon is not the favorite of many in Sacramento to be Speaker. So if it’s not Low or now maybe not Rivas, Rendon will all but for certain see one of them or another person gun for his job next year post election and after all the new Assembly swearing-ins.”
As of Wednesday, Rivas has not said for certain if he plans to try to become speaker next year.
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