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Politics Around The Next California Assembly Speaker

Audio

Aired 12/8/09

We should have a better idea of who will be California's next Assembly Speaker this week, but the process is charged with politics. We're joined on Morning Edition by non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

We should have a better idea of who will be California's next assembly speaker this week. We're joined on Morning Edition by non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Well, the plot is starting to thicken, Leo, on who will be the next assembly speaker. What are the latest political developments?

LEO MCELROY: Well, the latest political developments are there was supposed to be a top-secret sort of meeting between the two contenders, Kevin De Leon and John Perez, some time yesterday, to try to patch over this rift that's occurred in the Democratic caucus. But right now, this thing is shaping up as probably the bitterest, nastiest speakership battle that we've had in lots and lots of years around the Capitol. There are charges of betrayal, charges of empire building, and the nastiness has nothing to do with ideology, it has nothing to do with racial politics. It is a purely personal scrap between two members of the Latino caucus, one of whom says the other one has betrayed him and gone back on a deal. And the whole thing sounds like inside baseball, except for the fact that because it's so deeply personal, and apparently so bitter, that if it's not patched over it could really destroy the ability of the Assembly to do very much in the coming years because the Democratic caucus itself could be bitterly and deeply split. We're watching this, and just watching people gritting their teeth as they talk about what's likely to happen, and who's to blame for what. The echoes just promise to keep on giving and giving.

DWANE BROWN: Yeah, well you mentioned insider baseball, Leo. Why should I even care about California's assembly speaker?

MCELROY: You normally wouldn't. You normally wouldn't, you would just take it as a given thing that the members of the majority caucus have gotten together and decided who they're going to have lead them. The Assembly Speaker is pretty much the face of the caucus, and functions as such, but in this case what you're seeing is a split, and a potential face that's a symbol of a deeply divided caucus, that is going to have even more trouble getting its act together that it's had in the past. We saw a lot of problems during the last budget negotiations. When times got tough, it was very difficult to pull votes together and to get the democrats in the assembly to even agree among themselves what it was they wanted to accomplish. This time around, if this split continues, and you continue to have people pointing fingers and saying 'You lied,' 'No, you lied,' we could have a government that's virtually paralyzed. If the Assembly can't do anything, it stops the whole legislature, and makes the whole process come to a screeching halt.

PAMELA DAVIS: Well, with all this going on, Leo, when can we expect a decision?

MCELROY: Well, the betting is, at some point this week, there probably will be enough votes confirmed to go ahead and have the caucus decide who the Democrats want as the speaker, but it's going to be a divided vote almost certainly, unless there's some deal made in the back halls. Once that happens, of course, then the Republicans can stop giggling and decide whether to throw their votes in and go for the majority choice as they usually do, or if they want to sit back farther, and see the conflict continue. Right now it's the kind of thing that the Republicans are really enjoying. This is America's great spectator sport, if you're a Republican in the Assembly. In terms of the course of future government, it doesn't bode well. Because it means that you've got a majority group, that pretty much runs the Assembly, split so badly that there really is no working majority anymore.

DAVIS: Non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Leo, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

MCELROY: You bet.

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