By ADAM BEAM | Associated Press
SACRAMENTO — California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon says he will step down next summer, ending a seven-year tenure as one of the state’s most powerful politicians before being dismissed from office in 2024.
Rendon said Thursday he would step down as speaker on June 30, handing 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 to work for Californians who need it most and will continue to put power in the hands of my members, particularly those who are underrepresented,” Rendon, a Democrat, said in a press release. “I look forward to working with MP Rivas in anticipation of a smooth transition in 2023.”
The Speaker of the Legislature wields tremendous power in California, serving as the chief negotiator for the 80-seat chamber that includes the governor and the president of the Senate over key legislation and the state’s $300 billion operating budget.
Rivas is the grandson of Mexican immigrants. He said his grandfather was an immigrant farm worker who stood by Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers to advocate for workers’ rights.
Rivas’ biography on his official website says that as a child he struggled to overcome a severe stutter “that almost left him speechless”. He was first elected to the legislature in 2018. Its district includes San Benito County and portions of Monterey, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties.
At the assembly, Rivas chaired the Agriculture Committee and worked to pass coronavirus protections and more housing for farm workers.
“As the grandson of immigrant farm workers, I hope the opportunities that were open to my family remain open to future generations,” said Rivas.
Rendon and Rivas have few political differences, so the change is unlikely to change the assembly’s priorities. Democrats control so many seats that they can pass bills without Republican votes.
But the announcement ends a chaotic power struggle that has divided Democratic lawmakers since the summer when Rivas first approached Rendon to take the top job. Rendon resisted, sparking a leadership struggle that continued until the November elections.
Rivas and Rendon campaigned for Democratic candidates to secure enough support to win the job. On Thursday – two days after the election – the newly elected Assembly Democrats met for the first time to choose their officers.
After hours of private meetings, lawmakers emerged to announce Rendon would remain speaker until next summer, allowing him to chair another budget cycle and a likely special session focused on gas prices.
The caucus appointed Rivas as “commissioned spokesman”.
“I would like to thank Speaker Rendon and my colleagues and am honored to have this opportunity,” he said.