California Republican lawmakers voted Thursday to oust a colleague from a leadership position after he supported and championed Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s cap-and-trade program.
Assembly Republicans voted in a closed-door meeting to replace Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes with the more conservative Brian Dahle, a conservative farmer from a rural part of California. State Republicans were incensed that Mayes not only voted for the climate rule but also publicly cheered on the bill.
The news of Mayes’ ouster was met with a mixture of bewilderment and excitement.
“I’m relieved — I won’t call it a victory or a celebration — that the struggle has come to an end in a positive way, with a unanimous vote,” Republican National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon, a California attorney, said Thursday afternoon.
Dhillon called for Mayes’ replacement earlier this month because of the former leader’s vote, which she suggested at the time was a move to make the party “Democrat lite.” Conservative California Republicans are becoming a rare breed in the state that is becoming a bastion of West Coast liberalism.
Republicans in the state are under intense pressure to adhere to party principles, Bruce Cain, a political scientist and director of Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West, told reporters after the vote.
“As a result, they get [into] a deeper and deeper hole,” Cain said about California Republicans. “The Republican party has never been as marginalized since the Depression as it is right now.” Still, conservatives are wielding a big stick in the state, and are willing to push for a leader who they feel most accurately represents their party.
Dahle does have a reputation of making bipartisan choices, but, unlike Mayes, voted against the bill to extend cap-and-trade through 2030, which conservatives in the state believe could cause gas prices to skyrocket and hurt energy companies in the long run.
Twenty-eight senators voted in favor of the bill, but only one Republican in the Senate crossed party lines on the measure. Many of the bill’s opponents in the Senate noted that California represents just 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the characterize it as an attack against the poor.
State Sen. Andy Vidak, for instance, said the extension represents a “regressive” tax that would not substantially impact the climate. Vidak’s fellow congressmen can remove Mayes from his leadership post in August by a vote of his 25-member caucus.
The vote to oust was partially the handy-work of the state’s conservative base. Tim Donnelly, a conservative former assemblyman who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2014, called on tea party members to take Mayes down.
“I think every single Republican in the state of California should make it their business to make phone calls for whoever is going to primary Chad Mayes if he doesn’t resign his seat,” Donnelly said Friday. He has criticized Brown in the past for supposedly focusing too narrowly on climate change and not enough on other state problems.
Brown, a Democrat who is in the last year of his final term in office, promoted the program to compel companies into reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. He criticized the Republicans’ decision to push out Mayes.
“Sad day,” he tweeted Thursday, “when the Grand Old Party punishes a leader whose only flaw was believing in science & cutting regs, costs & taxes for Californians.”
Brown’s cap-and-trade program is not the only environmental law causing pain to California lawmakers. Citizens signed signatures in May for a recall effort against Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman for his vote in favor of for the state’s gas tax – Democrats reconfigured rules earlier this year governing recall efforts to help Newman.
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