SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Assembly’s top Republican said Thursday he’ll resign his leadership post, following weeks of party pressure for him to step aside over his vote for major climate change legislation.
Assemblyman Brian Dahle will take over Sept. 15 as the Assembly GOP leader, replacing Assemblyman Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley.
Dahle, a farmer, is a third-term lawmaker from the tiny town of Bieber in one of California’s most northern, rural counties. He voted against the climate bill but did not join in the harsh criticism of Mayes.
Mayes, who at first resisted calls to step down, praised Dahle as a successor who shares his vision for governing.
“His heart and his character and the vision that he has is symbiotic with what I believe as well and so he’ll do a fantastic job,” Mayes said.
Mayes had vowed to withstand pressure to resign after he led a group of seven Assembly Republicans in backing an extension of California’s cap and trade program, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by charging polluters.
The California Republican Party’s board took the rare step of calling last week for him to step down.
Critics argued that he delivered Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown a win on the cap and trade legislation while abandoning Republican Party principles. Mayes stood side-by-side with Brown and Democratic leaders at a news conference celebrating the program’s extension.
“The cap and trade vote was not bipartisan, it was capitulation,” said Harmeet Dhillon, a member of the Republican National Committee who circulated a petition calling on Mayes to resign.
Mayes argued it was a good deal for business and would help the Republican Party appeal to a wide swath of California voters. Some Democrats praised him.
“Some of the more extreme elements of the Republican caucus didn’t treat Chad very well,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Los Angeles-area Democrat. “He was always trying to move the state forward. I think that was his first concern whereas I think others were more concerned about their own personal politics.”
Dahle voted against cap and trade and a measure to improve air monitoring. He emerged late Wednesday as a consensus pick that would please Republicans who wanted Mayes gone and would satisfy those who believe Republicans need to have a seat at the table in Sacramento, where they hold a super-minority in both chambers.
Dahle said he will pursue policies that “move California in a direction and make it a place where people want to buy a home and have a career, send their kids to a good school and live the California dream.”
Dahle’s district is one of the most conservative in California. He won the district by roughly 75 percent in the 2016 election.
Dahle said he will aim for Republicans to have a seat at the negotiating table with the Democrats.
He was one of two Republicans to back a bill that spent some cap and trade money on biomass plants, which he said would save jobs. And he co-authored a bill with several Democrats this year to expand broadband internet access in rural areas.
Republicans “hardly ever have an opportunity to be at the table with any type of relevance,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican consultant and aide to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I think Dahle will be a leader to look for an opportunity to influence policy if he gets that rare chance.”
Still, Stutzman said the drama around Mayes reveals deeper issues for California Republicans. The state party should be spending more time recruiting candidates for statewide office than wading in on legislative leadership battles, he said.
“If this is about winning elections it appears to be a lot of misplaced time and energy,” he said.
Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne contributed reporting.