Speakership update: Perez, De Leon discuss Assembly leadership

 Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, is planning to hold a vote to elect her replacement on the Assembly floor this week. The two front-runners for the job – Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, and Kevin DeLeon, D-Los Angeles — spoke for about 20 minutes this weekend, and were set to meet again today to discuss the race.

The vote would likely be a voice vote, and could come Wednesday or Thursday, as the house reconvenes to discuss education policy.

As of Monday morning, no deal had been reached between De Leon and Perez. Perez, who has the support of Bass, is said to have pledged support from a majority of the Assembly’s 50 Democrats. Although technically it takes 41 votes to elect a speaker, Democrats have deferred in the past to whomever wins a majority of the caucus support.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has spoken to both speakership candidates and to Bass, sources confirmed. Other surrogates like Maria Elena-Durazo, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, have also been in contact with assemblymembers.

What is unusual about the current struggle is that the caucus has yet to close ranks behind a single candidate. In the past – when Fabian Nunez and Bass secured the job – the caucus quickly coalesced around a candidate once that person had secured a majority of the caucus’s support.

But supporters of DeLeon remained defiant last week despite Perez’s obvious momentum. They expressed displeasure that Bass had orchestrated Perez’s rise, although Perez had pledged to support DeLeon. And they contend Bass has spoken to the press more than she has spoken to members of her own caucus.

Perez supporters scoffed at that notion Monday. Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael said this week was “a logical and appropriate time to go ahead and take a vote” on the speakership. Huffman said he expected there to be a vote in caucus this week, and then a vote on the floor.

When asked about the possibility of a protracted power struggle, Huffman said, “I expect John will win the vote, and that cooler heads will prevail.” Huffman said he expected Perez to eventually be elected with the unanimous support of the Assembly Democrats, and said “to do anything else would be completely destructive and reckless.”

“To allow this to go to the floor unresolved would be irresponsible and damaging to the caucus – from either side,” Huffman said.

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