OC Labor Leader John A. Perez in Speakership Fight

Asm. John A. Perez

Asm. John A. Perez

The leadership fight to determine who will be the next Speaker of the California State Assembly will probably be the top political news story in California this week. Over Thanksgiving week we learned that Assemblymembers Kevin De Leon and John A. Perez would be battling it out for the leadership spot.

Perez has strong labor connections in Orange County because of his work as an organizer and Political Director for UFCW 324 based in Buena Park. Perez was honored in January 2009 for his labor leadership by the Democratic Party of Orange County with the Samuel Gompers Award.

Today in the Los Angeles Times Shane Goldmacher and Eric Bailey wrote a great analysis of the brewing feud between these two LA lawmakers and their allies.

As the California Assembly closes in on naming a new leader, the question is not whether the next speaker will be a Latino from Los Angeles, it is which one.

But what might have been cause for cultural celebration has instead become a family feud.

The statehouse’s burgeoning Latino caucus — the largest ethnic group in the Capitol, with more than two dozen lawmakers, 14 of them from Los Angeles County — has been cleaved into warring factions worthy of Hatfield and McCoy.

Leaked polls, whisper campaigns and preemptive declarations of victory echoed through Capitol hallways. There was talk of double-crosses and political retribution. There have been hurt feelings and shifting allegiances.

Some members of the increasingly influential caucus threw their backing to the heir apparent, a cousin of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Others stuck by the man who holds the mayor’s old Assembly seat. Meanwhile, a third Los Angeles lawmaker elbowed into the fray, vowing to challenge one of the two in next June’s primary election.

“This has not been fun to watch,” said Fabian Nuñez, a former Assembly speaker from Los Angeles who remains a player in statehouse politics.

“You keep these matters private,” Nuñez said. “. . . Not because you’re being secretive. This is your dirty laundry.”

The new front runner for the Assembly’s top post is freshman John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles). Last year, in his first race for state office, he appeared destined for a showdown with other prominent Latinos. But his two challengers quietly dropped out, coaxed to the sidelines. One won a spot on the city’s Planning Commission from the mayor.

Asm. Kevin De Leon

Asm. Kevin De Leon

The seeds of the speakership schism were planted Thanksgiving weekend, when word spread among Democrats that Kevin De Leon, an affable and ambitious assemblyman long considered the front runner, was stepping up his recruitment of supporters and asking them to sign a letter of commitment. The Los Angeles Democrat’s rivals appeared to lag far behind, with no path to victory.

Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), who battled rumors of coup attempts as she struggled to steer the lower house through the state’s fiscal crisis, hoped to hang on to the job into next year. She knew that De Leon wanted to be speaker now — and could force her out if he had enough votes — and she persuaded other candidates to get behind Perez, a well-liked former labor leader.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass

Instead of letting the selection process play out largely behind closed doors, Bass took the extraordinary step of holding a press conference Wednesday to declare that the freshman had the votes to win.

“The momentum is such that it’s time for a resolution,” Bass declared.

Perez, who would be California’s first openly gay legislative leader, had surprised the Capitol by entering the contest. For months, he had been insisting that he would leave the Assembly to run for a state Senate opening next year.

Read the complete LATimes story here.

  1 comment for “OC Labor Leader John A. Perez in Speakership Fight

  1. FdF
    December 7, 2009 at 10:52 am

    How sad it is to see these desperate electeds like Norma Torres throw the Democratic Party under the bus just because she won’t be getting the Committee Chair position that De Leon promised her. I certainly hope donors return the favor in her next election. If she wants to be with the Republicans, let Glenn Beck and the flat-earthers fund her campaign.

    These few remaining “Democrats” are pathetic and need to stop trying to make deals with Republicans, and get back to the mediocre job they were doing representing their constituents while they still have a job.

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