Assembly Republicans voted in Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) as the new Minority Leader of the Assembly on Tuesday, replacing Assemblywoman Marie Waldron (R-Valley Center).
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Gallagher, a graduate of both UC Berkeley and UC Davis, Gallagher worked as a fellow for then-Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa in the 2000’s. After becoming a lawyer and continuing as a rice farmer, Gallagher was then elected to to the Sutter County Board of Supervisors, a position that his grandfather held in the late 1980’s, in 2008 and proceeded to serve in that capacity for the next six years.
In 2014, Gallagher was elected to the Assembly. He quickly became one of the more recognizable and more outspoken of the Republicans in the Assembly, especially after Governor Gavin Newsom was elected in 2018. Along with Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), the two became the Governor’s biggest critics, and even sued him in 2020 over his ‘one-man-rule’ of presiding over state government during the pandemic.
In a statement, Gallagher praised the outgoing Waldron on Tuesday for helping keep the party together in the Assembly and for helping lead the charge in picking up another seat for the party in the 2020 election.
“She has kept us on track,” said Gallagher on Tuesday. “We’re going to do that.”
In a tweet later on Tuesday, Gallagher added that “I am grateful for the trust my colleagues have placed in me to help lead our caucus and work to better the lives of Californians up & down the state. Asm Waldron has been a tremendous leader winning victories throughout California. I plan to build on her legacy.”
I am grateful for the trust my colleagues have placed in me to help lead our caucus and work to better the lives of Californians up & down the state. Asm Waldron has been a tremendous leader winning victories throughout California. I plan to build on her legacy.
— James Gallagher (@J_GallagherAD3) February 8, 2022
The selection of Gallagher on Tuesday has signaled to many that the GOP will be taking a more proactive role in both the Assembly and California in the 2020’s. Already emboldened by many state level and House wins in 2020, sending Governor Newsom to a recall election in 2021, and helping set up more possible recalls this year, including San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, state conservatives aim to keep up the pressure and bring back more Republicans into office.
A move to a more outspoken GOP Assembly member as leader
While Democrats in California still far outnumber Republicans, with the majority of major offices controlled by Democrats, Gallagher said on Tuesday that his goal is to bring the GOP back to the majority in the state, or at the very least end the super majority of Democrats.
“My goal is to return Republicans to the majority by speaking directly to Californians who, I think, have had enough of decades of Democrats’ super majority rule,” added Gallagher on Tuesday. “When they look around their neighborhoods they see it’s harder and harder to afford a house or to afford rent; they see crime on the rise and getting worse. Look, we have better ideas and we think there is a better path forward.”
“We’re very focused on accountability: Accountability when it comes to wildfire dollars and how they are getting spent and ensuring communities are safe so we don’t have another Paradise,” he said. “We’re focused on how we make government better for people.”
Political experts noted that while Gallagher likely won’t help bring the Republicans back to the strength they had in the state several decades ago, he is likely to at least help lead the GOP to slowly take back more seats beginning this year.
“Right now a lot of voters are questioning the Biden administration and are getting tired of many Democratic leaders in California sort of dragging their feet on many key issues like crime and homelessness,” said Jessica Fuller, a Southern California pollster, to the Globe on Wednesday. “Gallagher is more outspoken and way more willing to challenge people like Newsom than his predecessors were, and that could be invigorating.”
“While going after the issues is important, the GOP shakeup also needs to focus on California as a whole and maybe bring out a few surprising victories. The growing Latino population is a good bet for them, especially second and third generation Latinos who hold many Conservative values but are not really affected by key issues that have kept many voting Democratic in the past like immigration. The same goes for many Democratic leaning Californians who are feeling more and more of a pinch when it comes to taxes and business regulations.”
“Gallagher is a good choice by the Assembly if it wants to keep slowly gaining ground on the Democrats, but they will really need to pus, and prove, that bad public safety and social policies put into place by Democrats have been hurting the state. And it sounds like that’s in the cards for him.”
Gallagher specifically spoke about election leadership for 2022 on Tuesday, saying that he will help guide the GOP through the numerous special elections in the lead up to the general election in November.
“We’re working with our party, working with candidates, so we’re going to take every opportunity where we can speak to the voters and talk about these issues,” explained Gallagher.
Gallagher officially became the new Minority Leader on Tuesday and will be running for reelection to the Assembly in November.