Lawmaker moves to oust Assembly Speaker Rendon

Assemblyman Robert Rivas, left, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. (Images: State Assembly and video screen capture, YouTube)

Assemblymember Robert Rivas, a Salinas Democrat who grew up in a farm worker family, moved Friday to capture the Assembly speakership. A formal transfer of authority may come as early as next week.

Rivas, 42, said he met Friday morning with the current Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, and told him of his plans. He told Rendon in a letter that “I have the votes,”  adding that he hoped for an “orderly transition,” according to several sources.

He had rounded up 34 votes, sources said, and at least seven more — the minimum needed — appeared all but certain.

Rivas said on his Twitter feed that he had secured votes from an array of Democrats in the Assembly, including members of caucuses representing Latinos, Asian Pacific Islanders, and the LGBTQ community, among others, and has “significant support from members of the Black caucus.”

Rendon, 54, a Los Angeles Democrat, has served as speaker for six years. Just prior to becoming speaker, he authored the $7.5 billion water bond on the 2014 ballot, which was approved a 2-to-1 ratio at the polls.

A decision on the speakership — which requires at least 41 votes of the 80-member house — was not expected until at least Tuesday. No action was expected later Friday, with lawmakers leaving the Capitol for the holiday weekend.

An abrupt change in the speakership, although not the political earthquake it once was before term limits, still has a major impact on the Assembly, with a shuffling of staffers and a reordering of legislative priorities.

The Assembly is controlled by Democrats — 58 Democrats, 19 Republicans, two vacancies and one independent. Although Democrats have differences on a number of issues, it appeared likely that Rivas would be able to command the simple majority needed to take the speakership.

Happier days: Robert Rivas, left, with Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes, Latino Spirit Awardee George Pla and Speaker Anthony Rendon  (right) at a May 2 event. (Photo: Rivas website)

There was no immediate comment from Rendon. Sources said Democrats were unhappy with Rendon’s management of the Assembly, which some lawmakers characterized as ineffective.

That unhappiness included a dispersal of authority among the committee chairs and Rendon’s earlier decision to shelve a single-payer health bill — a move that generated widespread criticism among many legislative Democrats and the larger public.

Rivas, 42, was elected in 2018 and can serve in the Assembly until 2030, under term limits.

Rivas was raised in Paicines, California, where he was raised by his grandparents; his grandfather was a farm worker at the Almaden Vineyards and helped negotiate contracts between the company and workers.

Dolores Huerta, co-founder the United Farm Workers,  said she has “known Rivas his entire life … I am so very proud of him.”

He is known as a prodigious fund-raiser and has raised about $1 million for other lawmakers’ campaigns. Fundraising is a key function of an effective speaker.

“I think there was a feeling that they needed new blood in the Assembly and a new leadership style,” said Democratic strategist Steven Maviglio, formerly a paid adviser to Rivas.  “I think there was also a view that they were playing second-fiddle to the Senate.”

Editor’s Note: Includes identification of Maviglio as former former paid adviser,  final graf.

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