Capitol Alert

Fourth California lawmaker steps down this year, this time citing health

Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, center, walks through a Capitol hallway in 2016. He resigned in December 2017.
Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, center, walks through a Capitol hallway in 2016. He resigned in December 2017. AP

Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, who rose from a connected political family in Los Angeles to capture his seat at just 26 years old, announced plans to resign at year’s end.

Ridley-Thomas, who first shared the news with the Los Angeles Times, cited “persistent health issues,” including a surgery on Dec. 18. It was the fifth time he went under the knife this year. Though Ridley-Thomas said he expects to make a full recovery, he disclosed that his physicians advised him that he will need an extended time to recuperate.

His office declined to explain the nature of his health issues or surgeries.

“Accordingly, I submitted my letter of resignation to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon late yesterday,” he wrote in a statement on Wednesday. “I did so with great reluctance, but even greater respect for the office, which involves constant travel, an unrelenting schedule and high stress. Unfortunately, at this point, I am no longer able to deliver the effort my constituents in the 54th District deserve. Consequently, I am also terminating my reelection campaign.”

A spokesman for Rendon said Ridley-Thomas informed the speaker about his plan to step down on Tuesday evening.

“My colleagues and I wish Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas all the best going forward as he deals with his health challenges,” the speaker said in a statement. “The Assembly will continue to assist the residents of the 54th Assembly District until a new assemblymember is seated.”

Ridley-Thomas, 30, is the fourth Democrat from the Legislature’s lower chamber to leave their post this year, after Jimmy Gomez left to take his seat in Congress. Democratic Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra and Matt Dababneh resigned their seats in disgrace following allegations of sexual harassment and assaults, respectively. Ridley-Thomas’ seat is considered safely Democratic.

One of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas's twin sons, Sebastian had been groomed for public life from a young age. Even when his deep baritone belied his relative youth, the graduate of historic Morehouse College in Atlanta worked as a trusted aide to local and legislative campaigns, where his mind for the blocking and tackling of politics meshed with his instinctual understanding of the retail variety.

In the Legislature, he often aligned with the Democratic caucus’ moderate, business friendly bloc. An enduring imagine of Ridley-Thomas came two years ago, when he hastily brought then-Sen. Fran Pavley’s Senate Bill 32 up for a floor vote only to have the landmark environmental legislation summarily blocked. The Legislature in 2016 adopted a similar climate change bill that called for an aggressive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Sebastian Ridley-Thomas said he plans to one day resume public life, and will remain active in civic affairs. “Following recuperation, I will return to the work of political empowerment, millennial civic engagement, and inspiring the next generation of leaders.”

He added: “I am grateful to have worked with some incredible colleagues — men and women of strong conscience and determination to keep California moving forward. My hope is that, in this next chapter of public life, I can help ensure that African-Americans, millennials, and all Angelenos have a strong and vibrant voice in shaping the future of the Golden State.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago