By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
State GOP in disarray after cap & trade vote
Jon Fleischman file photo
Jon Fleischman

Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Temecula) has been removed from her position as vice chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee.

In addition, she and her staff we being relocated to a new office - the smallest in the Capitol, referred to as the "dog house."

These punitive actions appear to have been taken at the behest of Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, in response to Melendez's public opposition to Mayes' position on Gov. Jerry Brown's cap-and-trade extension.

Mayes negotiated a deal with Democrats, who needed a two-thirds majority to pass the extension and were short of that number on the day of the vote. In return for some mitigation for a few business interests with a presence in the Capitol, Mayes put up his own vote and those of six other Assembly Republicans for the bill - enough to allow Democrats in swing districts to not have to vote for it.

Soon after the vote, the Legislature went into recess. But in an Assembly Republican Caucus meeting right before the recess, Melendez resigned her position as Mayes's deputy, objecting to his abandoning of Republican principles.

Since the Legislature has been in recess, a massive groundswell has taken place all around California calling for the resignation or removal of Mayes as the GOP leader. Over a dozen county GOP central committees have passed resolutions (many by a unanimous vote), major GOP fundraising groups have done the same, and this weekend the California Republican Party Board of Directors will meet to consider an anti-Mayes motion as well - which is anticipated to pass.

Mayes may or may not resign, but in a sign that the writing may be on the wall, Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear, started campaigning for leader just days ago. Obernolte was part of a large majority of Assembly Republicans who voted against cap-and-trade.

In the meantime, Mayes has apparently taken steps to punish Melendez. But she is sticking to her guns.

"Actions have consequences. I made the decision to stand up for Californians against higher fuel and utility costs, a decision I do not regret. While Assemblyman Mayes may not appreciate my efforts, I know that struggling Californians do," she said. "These actions have only strengthened my commitment to fight for Republican principles so the American Dream can thrive once again in California."

Technically, the punitive actions against Melendez would have come at the direction of the Assembly Speaker, as the Democrats control the lower chamber (as well as the upper chamber). But the close relationship between Mayes and the Speaker is well-known, and it is unlikely that the Speaker would have made these moves without direction from Mayes.

This turn of events will not only turn up the political heat on Mayes, but also on his more conservative caucus colleagues. Mayes may be what seasoned Capitol observers refer to as a "dead man walking," because if he does not resign or is not voted out when the Legislature reconvenes, then the controversy will only grow, and the division will only become worse.

If Mayes is forced out, the focus will shift to the broader group of Republicans who voted in favor of cap-and-trade.

Meanwhile, Brown is being given credit for pushing his signature environmental bill through the legislature with a bipartisan vote, likely securing another decade of funding for the troubled high-speed rail project, and helped launch the California GOP into disarray.

The 2018 elections are around the corner, and the ability of Republicans to prepare for them now is in question.

Jon Fleischman, from 1999 to 2001, was the executive director of the Republican Party of California from 1999 to 2001, before moving to the Orange County Sheriff's Department as the deputy director for public affairs. Fleischman left that position in 2005 to start his own consulting firm, Fleischman Consulting Group.