California Democrats currently have 50 votes in the Assembly. That’s 10 more than they need for a majority, though 4 short of what they need for a 2/3rds majority. Still, given the size of their majority, there is absolutely no reason for any Democrat seeking the Speakership to find Republican votes.
Unfortunately that seems to be what’s taking place. And former Speaker Willie Brown, who relied on Republican votes on three different occasions (1980, 1988, 1994) to maintain his hold on the Speaker’s office, is using his weekly San Francisco Chronicle column to fuel the divide within the Assembly Democratic Caucus:
Nuñez thought he had brokered a deal where his guy [Kevin de Léon] would become speaker, and in return Pérez would run unopposed for the state Senate seat now held by Gil Cedillo. Cedillo, in turn, would go back to the Assembly.
They even opened a great bottle of wine at the mayor’s house and toasted the settlement.
But when de Leon couldn’t swing the votes by the end of the Thanksgiving holiday, Pérez said, “Time’s up,” and announced he had 28 members on his side. Then he called me and asked, “What do you think?”
I said that the last time I looked it took 41 votes to be speaker, so you’re still 13 short.
Actually, I said, you’re 15 votes short.
Why’s that? he asked.
Answer: You need to add one for the cross and one for the double cross that are bound to happen once the voting starts.
Why would Willie Brown go public with this? The intent seems to be to undermine John Pérez and to give fuel to Kevin de Léon’s effort to prolong a race he’s already lost.
If the deal did go down as described, then Pérez has done nothing wrong. de Léon had to find the votes and he couldn’t do it. A deal at Antonio Villaraigosa’s house doesn’t matter if the Assembly Democratic caucus won’t ratify it and don’t want de Léon as their speaker. de Léon and Cedillo can whine all they want to, but the caucus seems to have spoken: they want Pérez.
And if that’s the case, then de Léon, Cedillo, Núñez and others need to accept that reality. de Léon’s backers need to close ranks behind Pérez as their choice for Speaker. Deals with Republicans don’t do anything at all to further the Democratic cause in this state, as we can be sure that the Republicans will demand a price that is simply too high for Californians to afford.