Moderate Democrats in the California Assembly on Tuesday chose Assemblymen Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, and Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, to lead their caucus, multiple sources confirmed.
The decision, which took place during a policy retreat at Torrey Pines in San Diego, followed Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, the current leader of the business-friendly group, announcing last week that he would renounce his Assembly seat. It was not yet clear how Cooper or Salas would share leadership duties.
A leadership change coincides with the caucus’ rising clout in Sacramento. While Democrats firmly control Sacramento, the moderate caucus has made its mark by diluting or blocking legislation opposed by business groups.
Unlike more formal legislative blocs, like the California Legislative Women's Caucus or the increasingly influential California Latino Legislative Caucus, the moderate group does not have an official website or hold press conferences to highlight its priority bills. But its members generally align with business interests who oppose regulations they say will slow growth or cost jobs.
The most notable example this year was the decision by Democratic leadership to amend an agenda-leading climate bill so it would not mandate a sharp reduction in petroleum use. With oil companies fiercely contesting the measure, moderate Democrats proved unwilling to lend their support.
Changes in the political process have aided the bloc’s rise. Business interests have recognized an opening in California’s top-two primary system, showering money on more centrist candidates in the Democrat-on-Democrat races that have proliferated under the new system.