California Assembly announces leadership change for 2023

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon says he will step down next summer, ending what will be a seven-year run as one of the state’s most powerful politicians before he is termed out of office in 2024.

Rendon said Thursday he will relinquish the speakership on June 30, turning it over to Robert Rivas, a Democrat from California’s Central Coast — the region along the Pacific Ocean between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

“I will continue working for the Californians who need it most, and keep putting power in the hands of my members, especially those who are underrepresented,” Rendon, a Democrat, said in a news release. “I look forward to working with Assemblymember Rivas in anticipation of a smooth transition in 2023.”

The Assembly speaker wields immense power in California, acting as the 80-member chamber’s chief negotiator with the governor and the president of the state Senate on major legislation and the state’s $300 billion operating budget.

Rivas is the grandson of Mexican immigrants. He said his grandfather was a migrant farmworker who stood with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers to advocate for worker rights.

Rivas’ biography on his official website says he struggled to overcome a severe stutter as a child “that rendered him almost speechless.” He was first elected to the Legislature in 2018. His district includes San Benito County and parts of Monterey, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

In the Assembly, Rivas has been chair of the Agriculture Committee and worked to pass coronavirus protections and more housing opportunities for farmworkers.

“As the grandson of immigrant farmworkers, I hope to ensure the door of opportunity that was available to my family remains open for future generations,” Rivas said.

Rendon and Rivas have few policy differences, so the change is not likely to alter the priorities of the Assembly. Democrats control so many seats that they can pass bills without the need of Republican votes.

But the announcement ends a messy power struggle that has divided Democratic lawmakers since the summer, when Rivas first approached Rendon about taking over the top job. Rendon resisted, sparking a leadership fight that carried over into the November elections.

Rivas and Rendon campaigned for Democratic candidates in an attempt to secure enough support to win the job. Thursday — two days after the election — newly elected Assembly Democrats met for the first time to elect their officers.

After hours of meeting in private, lawmakers emerged to announce that Rendon would remain speaker through next summer, allowing him to lead one more budget cycle and a likely special session focused on gas prices.

The caucus named Rivas “speaker designee.”

“I would like to thank Speaker Rendon and my colleagues, and I am humbled by this opportunity,” he said.