California Assembly Republicans chose first-term Assemblyman Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, to be their next leader in a closed-door vote Tuesday.
Current Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, took over the leadership post last fall after an election that saw Republicans erase a Democratic supermajority. Her effort to build on that momentum came with an expiration date: Term limits prevent Olsen from serving in the Assembly after November 2016.
Olsen will continue to lead the caucus through the end of a session in which Democratic leaders are seeking Republican votes for taxes to help pay for health care and transportation infrastructure. But Mayes will take over election activity and will join Olsen on fundraising missions as he prepares to assume his new role Jan. 4. Senate Republicans ousted their leader, Bob Huff, last week, replacing him with Jean Fuller of Bakersfield.
“One of the main purposes of having a transition timeline is to make sure the new leader, the incoming leader, can meet all the key partners that we work with across the state,” Olsen told reporters. “From a fundraising perspective, we will be in all those meetings together.”
Under new term limit rules, Mayes is eligible to serve another 11 years in the Assembly. He said he planned to start reversing the Republican party’s stagnant electoral fortunes by focusing on the innovation economy, a topic Olsen has emphasized in her short tenure, and working to reduce California’s high poverty rate.
“We’re going to fight with everything that we have to be able to turn back the tide,” Mayes said. “Right now we’re at 28 (Assembly seats). We’re going to go to 30, 32, 34 – we’ll get there. We’ll get to 40, we’ll get to 41,” a majority, “at some point.”
Speculation about a leadership transition has pivoted on the question of Olsen’s next move. She is termed out of the Assembly in 2016 but is a potential challenger to Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Manteca, in 2016.
While Olsen has not made any public decision, her Olsen for Senate 2018 campaign account has pulled in $383,000 this year – money that she could transfer into a new 2016 account, if she chose to run for Galgiani’s seat. Olsen reiterated Tuesday that she will not make a decision until after the legislative session.
Mayes’ district extends from resort communities in Riverside County’s Coachella Valley to the high-desert towns of Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms in San Bernardino County.