New committee leaders in the Senate: Murray at Appropriations; Lowenthal at Transportation

Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, told Capitol Weekly that she is taking
a “temporary leave” from her role as chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations

Midgen says she is taking the leave to have more time to focus on Steve
Westly’s gubernatorial campaign. She will remain in the Senate, but with a
lighter work load.

“I’m going to be talking to [the Westly campaign], and I’m sure I’ll have
some fancy title,” she said. “But I intend to spend a great deal of time
day-to-day working on this campaign, and I wanted a minimal workload in the
Senate during the next six months.

Migden said she expects to take back the Appropriations gavel after the June

Speculation has swirled around Migden for months since she pressed the
voting button of a Republican Assemblyman while she was on the Assembly
floor earlier this year.

Migden has also had a hard time retaining staff. She describes herself as a
demanding boss, and has a reputation for being among the toughest of
Senators to work for. Recently, her chief of staff, Alan LoFaso, left
Migden’s staff to take another state government job, but said he left
Migden’s office “on great terms.”

Though she may be tough to work for, Migden is also considered one of the
smartest, and most competent members of the Senate, and her fundraising
prowess helps make her one of the most powerful.

Migden said that her choice to step aside from the powerful Appropriations
Committee had more to do with gubernatorial politics than internal Senate

“We, as Democrats, have cast out the moderates in our party,” she said. “To
me, Westly is in the best position to attract some of those people back to
our party.”

Westly spokesman Nick Velasquez said the Westly campaign was “focused on the
special election right now. We are looking into making an announcement
regarding such matters after the special election.”

But, he said, “we’re delighted to have her intelligence and her dedication
to public service, and she’ll be an asset to our campaign.”

Senate Leader Don Perata’s office announced the new lineup. They included

–Senate Democratic Caucus Chair: Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch)
–Appropriations Chair: Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles)
–Caucus Whip/Public Safety Chair: Sen. Carole Migden (D-San Francisco)
–Human Services Chair: Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-San Jose)
–Transportation and Housing Chair: Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach)
–Environmental Quality Chair: Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto)

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