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The bipartisan deal to renew cap-and-trade was supposed to be a major accomplishment in Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes’ bid to remake the California Republican Party and its relevance within the state Legislature. But a wave of conservative backlash since the vote two weeks ago has put the Yucca Valley assemblyman on the defensive and could ultimately cost him his post as head of the lower house’s 25-member GOP caucus.
Mayes spent months expressing interest in negotiating with Gov. Jerry Brown and other Democrats on an extension of cap-and-trade, the market-based system for reducing industrial greenhouse gas emissions that is the state’s signature climate change program. After helping to secure a number of amendments that would make the law more amenable to the industries most directly affected by its regulations, and possibly give Republicans more of a say in how revenues are spent, he delivered seven critical votes that pushed it over a necessary two-thirds threshold in the Assembly.
Conservative outcry, both external and from lawmakers in his own caucus, was fierce. A controversial nationalist activist from Southern California surfaced allegations of an affair to hit Mayes politically, while one of Mayes’ deputies resigned in protest over his “dereliction of duty.”
So far, he has survived the onslaught. During an impromptu Republican caucus three days after the cap-and-trade vote, held to quell tensions on the final morning before the Legislature broke for summer recess, no one moved to replace Mayes. “It’s all good. We had good conversation,” he told reporters as he emerged from the 80-minute meeting. “I’m the leader.”
But opponents – furious over Mayes’ support for a program they believe is simply a tax increase by another name, and worried about the implications for next year’s legislative elections – are not relenting. Republican officials, from state party board members to the chairmen of the Orange and San Diego county parties, have called on Mayes to resign. The Southern California activist is organizing protests outside fundraisers and other GOP events.
It’s not apparent anyone is waiting in the wings to succeed Mayes. If outside pressure continues to ramp up in the coming weeks, though, Assembly Republicans may no longer feel they can stand behind him when the Legislature reconvenes in August for the final month of session.
In the meantime, Mayes is laying low on cap-and-trade. He skipped a glitzy bill-signing with Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on San Francisco’s Treasure Island last Tuesday.
WORTH REPEATING: “Cal Fire is an agency that works.” - Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, thanking the firefighters who battled the Detwiler Fire that threatened Yosemite Valley
SPARE THE CARE: During a dramatic late-night vote in the U.S. Senate last week, three Republican senators crossed the political aisle to vote against a partial Obamacare repeal, ending their party’s long-running effort to dismantle the health care law – at least for now. Supporters of the Affordable Care Act are not taking chances; a national “Drive For Our Lives” bus tour launched last week to rally public favor for saving the ACA. It hits Sacramento today, in partnership with the consumer group Health Access California and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union. The 9 a.m. event on the north grounds of the Capitol features local physicians and health care activists like Sister Simone Campbell.
MUST READ: Affirmative action has for decades been a highly sensitive political issue, even in California. But something is changing: All of the leading Democratic candidates for governor support the policy.
CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, who turns 73 today, and Treasurer John Chiang, who is 55.