Capitol Alert

Jean Fuller takes over GOP Senate leadership post from Bob Huff

Senator Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield during session in the Senate chamber on March 11, 2013.
Senator Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield during session in the Senate chamber on March 11, 2013.

The California Senate Republican Caucus voted in Sen. Jean Fuller as its new minority leader Thursday, months ahead of a scheduled transition in November.

Fuller, of Bakersfield, will immediately take over from Sen. Bob Huff, R-San Dimas, as the Legislature enters its hectic final weeks of session.

Most Republican senators declined to openly discuss the circumstances of the vote. In an interview, Fuller downplayed any policy difference with Huff.

Fuller would not reveal the vote tally or if Huff agreed with stepping aside ahead of plans, but she said the change had nothing to do with any caucus sentiment that Huff has been too amenable to any of the transportation, health care or other tax proposals currently under consideration.

“For me, I’m eager to get started,” she said.

At a press conference, Fuller said the caucus had moved up the timeline to maintain focus on its ongoing priorities, including efforts to win additional seats in next year’s state Senate election.

“I sped up the transition because there’s many opportunities that we need to work on that I need to give my full time to and my full attention to,” Fuller said. “Sen. Huff is running for the LA County Supervisor. He has a lot to do.”

More immediately, the caucus could play a swing role in whether or not the Legislature approves new taxes in two special session called by Gov. Jerry Brown to increase funding for transportation and health care.

“Republicans do not raise taxes,” Fuller said, though she later teased that, “in politics, nothing is probable.”

“Anything is possible,” she said. “At the last minute, if people compromise and work together and do a good job of working with the facts, sometimes what the people really, really want actually can come true.”

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said he looked forward to working with Fuller, with whom he entered the Assembly nearly a decade ago.

He did not expect that her installation as Republican leader would make it easier to pass the tax proposals, which he characterized as still being in “conversations.”

“‘Negotiations’ is a big stretch,” de León said.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff