Assemblyman Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) was sworn in as the new Speaker of the California Assembly on Friday, replacing Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) after a years-long power struggle.
Born in Henderson, Nevada, Rivas grew up in the farm communities of Paicines and Hollister in Central California. After graduating from CSU Sacramento with a degree in Government and from San Jose State with a Masters in Public Administration, Rivas entered the world of politics. From 2003 to 2006, Rivas was a Field Director for then-Assemblywoman Anna Caballero’s office. After a stint as an EMT and firefighter for the city of Hollister, Rivas entered government work, becoming a Senior Clerk to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors from 2008 to 2010.
In 2010, Rivas was elected as a Monterey County Supervisor, with his most notable achievement coming the very same year when he led an effort for San Benito County to completely ban fracking. His stances and actions on environmental and agricultural issues won him support, leading to Rivas being elected to the Assembly in 2018.While many of Rivas’ farm bills have become laws in the past four years, in large part due to bipartisan backing, his environmental bills haven’t been as successful. One bill would have required the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and other state agencies to find a climate goal for California natural and working lands, AB 2954, but it fell hard in the Senate.
Last year, Rivas took his largest political step to date. Discontent over numerous issues, such as water issues during the drought last year, irked many Democrats. Wanting Rendon out, Rivals pulled together a coalition including leaders of the Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, LGBTQ, Womens’, Jewish, and Progressive caucuses. Rivas announced that he had the support to overtake Rendon as the next speaker in May of 2022 as a result. Rendon and allies scrambled, and through a closed door meeting in Sacramento, he got enough support back to remain the Speaker. However, with the writing now on the wall, both sides soon agreed to a changeover as speaker in 2023, although Rendon himself was not happy with how it all went down.
“I was very, very angry about it,” said Rendon earlier this month. “Rivas hasn’t asked me for help, and I haven’t thought about offering it. I have hurt feelings with the way things were carried out, for sure. I think it was really embarrassing for the institution, the way they acted.”
This all led to the events on Friday where Rendon stepped down as Speaker and Rivas was sworn in as the newest speaker, becoming the first Speaker to come from a rural distract in recent Assembly history.
“California is still the greatest state in the union,” said Rivas at his swearing in on Friday. “But if we in this room do not act and do not act with greater urgency, it will get more and more difficult to build a good life here. I feel, and I know that you all do, too, a great sense of responsibility because we are the ones who can keep the door open for the next generation.”
Rivas in, Rendon out
While his stances on many issues have made Republican members of the Assembly wince in the past and even sparked many to lead the charge in defeating his bills, his agricultural positions and his willingness to reach across the aisle to the GOP to work together have led many to hope that he can bring that bipartisan willingness to the Speaker’s chair.
“I appreciate Rivas’ background and understanding of agricultural issues,” noted Republican Assembly Leader James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) on Friday. “His words today about unity and respecting everybody’s differing viewpoints give me hope that we can work together to restore the California dream.”
Within the Capitol, insiders noted that there is cautious optimism for Rivas’ time as Speaker, although with many Democrats still remaining bitter at how Rivas decided to change things up.
“There is something of a mood here today,” said “Dana,” a state capitol staffer, to the Globe Friday. “What Rivas tried to do last year and eventually made work today just isn’t how things are normally done. It makes it look like their party and leadership is in turmoil. But there were issues that many were frustrated with last year, and they took action and never let up, even after Rendon got enough support back. They were clapping on the floor today, but for many let’s just say that it wasn’t enthusiastic.”
“Also not helping are some members of the GOP expressing some hope that he will work with them. Rivas is from a rural county and has been a rare Democrat to really go into agricultural issues. Republicans like that, but at the same time, don’t like other policies.”
“Like I said, there is a mood here, but we need to wait and see just where Rivas is going to go as Speaker. The upcoming few months to the end of the session should bring out just how he is going to do things.”
Rivas is expected to begin his new duties in earnest next week.
- Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo Rumored To Announce Congressional Run Soon - November 30, 2023
- Gov. Newsom’s Recent $300 Million Block Of Homeless Funding Faces Growing Criticism - November 30, 2023
- Effort Grows To Have Former SF Mayor, Supervisor Mark Farrell Run For Mayor In 2024 - November 30, 2023