GOP leadership fight sweeps to Senate

A closed-door retreat in Newport Beach for Senate Republicans has turned into a leadership battle, with state Sen. Jim Battin challenging Minority Leader Dick Ackerman for the top job – again.

Battin has collected seven votes, one shy of the eight votes needed to assume the leadership of the 15-member Senate Republican Caucus, sources told Capitol Weekly. Several senators did not attend the retreat, and another closed-door vote was planned Monday morning in the Capitol–on the same day that new members of the 2006-07 Legislature are scheduled to be formally sworn in.

The challenge mounted by the “Battinistas” against Ackerman, R-Irvine, is fueled by several factors.

One is the view of Senate conservatives, led by Sens. Tom McClintock of Thousand Oaks and Jeff Denham of Salinas, is that Ackerman has not been sufficiently aggressive in representing their views to the governor in budget negotiations. The view is similar to that held in the Assembly against former GOP Leader George Plescia, R-San Diego, who was ousted earlier this month.

Ackerman’s critics also are unhappy with the position by the Republican leadership to support much or all of the $43.7 billion infrastructure package on the November ballot, which fiscal conservatives in the GOP caucus believe dangerously increases the state’s debt load and is likely to lead to pork barrel projects for Democrats.

By late Thursday in an informal count, Battin appeared to have the support of six other members of his caucus, leaving him just one shy of the votes needed to become leader.

Ackerman reportedly has the backing of at least four others, although Capitol sources said the tally could change.

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