Politics & Government

Kristin Olsen to lead Assembly Republicans

Assembly Republicans have chosen their next leader.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Riverbank will take over as head of the caucus from Connie Conway of Tulare. Conway said the transition will take place after the November elections, in which Republicans will be focused on picking up enough seats to erode or eliminate the two-thirds majority Democrats carved out in 2012.

“We think November looks good for us. We’ll be working toward all of the same goals; none of that has changed,” Conway told reporters. “I have a working partner, and we’re going to continue this march through the elections.”

First elected in 2010, Olsen has served as vice chair of the Assembly Education Committee. After Republicans voted to retain Conway as leader in the wake of sweeping election losses last year, Olsen was relegated to a smaller office amid speculation that the move was tied to her leadership maneuverings. Conway will leave the Assembly due to term limits after this year.

“We all have the same goals of lowering taxes, creating great, great-paying, stable jobs and revitalizing our schools in California, and winning elections,” Olsen told reporters after winning the endorsement of her colleagues. “Those are goals that unite us and I believe we will be unified.”

Olsen, the highest-ranking Republican on the education committee, said Republicans must ensure Proposition 30 money flows to schools as the initiative’s backers promised, a vow Olsen said “has not been upheld by the current majority party.” She added she hopes to put into law a recent California Supreme Court decision that invalidated rules involving teacher tenure and firing.

“You can bet that our caucus will be taking a very strong and lead role in that area,” Olsen said.

Olsen, 40, is a native of Modesto who spent four years on the Modesto City Council before winning a seat in the Legislature. Her initiation to politics came via a stint in the California Senate Fellows program.

Term limits ensure Olsen’s service as Republican leader will be brief. She will be forced to depart the Assembly in 2016, allowing her a single session overseeing the Republican caucus.

Olsen’s selection marks the latest in a series of leadership turnovers in the Legislature. Senate Democrats have voted to make Sen. Kevin de León of Los Angeles their next leader, effective in October, while San Diego Assemblywoman Toni Atkins now leads Democrats in the lower house.