News

Bluster Caucus moves on

What do Dennis Mountjoy, Ray Haynes, Jay LaSuer and Jackie Goldberg have in
common? In case that last one threw you, it isn’t their political views.
It’s how they express them.

According to many of their staff and peers, this termed-out quartet were (by
varying degrees) the most loquacious, outspoken and humorous the Assembly
had to offer in the last couple years. The lower body may be less
entertaining without them.

Mountjoy, R-Monrovia, is so well-known for his humor that he’s a
sought-after MC for roasts and other events–and he had colleagues laughing
when he briefly got to preside over Assembly session in the closing days of
his Assembly career. When LaSuer moved to “vacate the chair,” Mountjoy
thundered that they would have “pry the gavel from my cold, dead fingers.”
Later, he summed up his career in the Assembly by saying “I’m not even a
lawmaker, because I’m a Republican.”

He said his favorite moment of Assembly floor frivolity came in 2001, in
another time he and housemate LaSuer–the pair bought a house together in
Natomas six years ago to live in during session–got into a groove during a
debate. “Isn’t that right, Mr. Mountjoy,” LaSuer would say, to which
Mountjoy would reply “Yes it is!” Fred Keeley, then speaker pro tem, told
the LaSuer he could not carry on debate as a conversation with another
member. LaSuer objected that he was merely using Mountjoy as a prop.

“Props of that size are not allowed on the floor,” Keeley said, referring to
the 6’2″, 270 pound Mountjoy.

Haynes, R-Murrieta, has long been known as the go-to guy for a good quote on
the conservative side, and for the following for his weekly email
newsletters. He’s made headlines by apologizing to kids for not being a
smoker–a reference to the Tobacco Tax Initiative. His annual Nosey Awards
have made waves, and angered colleagues, with what he saw as “the oddest and
most intrusive bills up before the Legislature.” The press releases for the
awards regularly contained phrases like “cigar envy” and “outlawing those
damned seagulls” for littering.

Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, brought down the entire Raley Field at last year’s
Legislative Softball game. When Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-Livermore, ran
into a wall while trying to catch a fly ball, someone yelled that he would
apply for worker’s comp. “That’s OK,” Goldberg yelled back. “He won’t get
any money.” She later got props for her “fresh is fresh, canned is canned”
speech when debating a school-lunch bill.

The four hardly had a monopoly on rhetorical talent. Russ Bogh, R-Beaumont,
was among several members of the outgoing class mentioned for their ability
to get off a good line.

But many people said it will be hard for anyone to match the ability to get
a laugh shown by Mountjoy and Goldberg. Still, there are a several
candidates on both sides of the aisle who will be vying to take home the
imaginary debate-tournament trophy.

Among Republicans, its Assembly members Chuck Devore, R-Irvine; Todd
Spitzer, R-Orange; and Audra Strickland, R-Moorpark, who came up most often.
Some said that Devore already should have made the list for his
outspokenness. Strickland, a freshman in 2004, seemed to find her rhetorical
voice in the last few weeks of session.

On the Democratic side, Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was cited for the dry
wit he often displayed when trying to control an unruly chamber from his pro
tem spot. Mountjoy said that he thinks John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, is the
funniest remaining member. Another candidate is Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys,
who shared the “Most Partisan” award with Haynes in Capitol Weekly’s recent
reader survey.

But it’s a Democrat who may show up in 2008 who really has bluster-watchers
atwitter. A longtime member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Tom
Ammiano recently announced plans to run for Mark Leno’s San Francisco
Assembly seat when he’s termed out in 2008. Leno already has endorsed him
and plans to chair his campaign.

While he’s probably most famous as the guy who nearly took down then-San
Francisco mayor Willie Brown in 1999 with a write-in campaign, Ammiano is
locally known as “the Mother of Gay Comedy.” In both his political career
and during a quarter-century as a stand-up comedian, he’s been known for
quick-witted barbs delivered in a strong Jersey accent. But will he use
Leno’s seat to fill Goldberg’s shoes?

“Can I fit into her pumps?” Ammiano said. “I don’t know, we’ll have to see


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