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New Assembly Speaker Picked by Democratic Caucus

By Vernon M. Billy - December 11, 2009

After a fierce, but relatively short-lived battle between Assemblyman John Pérez and Assemblyman Kevin de León, the contest over who would become the next Assembly Speaker quickly came to an end on Thursday. 

Democratic members emerged from their tense Caucus meeting to announce they had unanimously selected Pérez as their choice to take over as Speaker next year.  With his rival’s support and the support of Speaker Bass (D-Los Angeles), who is termed out next year,  Pérez should easily be elected as Speaker next year.

The Democrats’ choice for Speaker must be put to a formal vote of the entire 80 member Assembly.  With Democrats controlling 51 of the 80 seats, the formal election of Pérez as Speaker by the full Assembly will be more procedural than substantive. 

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass announced that she expects the vote for the new Speaker to take place in January when the legislature reconvenes from the holiday break.

Pérez, who was just elected in November 2008, is the cousin of former Assembly Speaker and current LA Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa.  Pérez also has ties to labor unions as a former representative of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, and is openly gay.  If elected Speaker, Pérez would become the first openly gay Speaker of the California Assembly.  He would also become the fourth Latino to hold the position.

And while the Assemblyman has the support of his colleagues in the Assembly, there still is a question as to whether State Senator Gil Cedillo will challenge Pérez in the democratic primary.  Cedillo, who recently ran for Congress in a special election and lost, is termed out of the Senate and had made it known that he would be running for Pérez’s Assembly seat. 

Once Pérez is installed as the new Speaker in January, he will have extensive resources at his disposal to ensure his re-election and blunt the efforts of any challengers.

Biography

John Perez

Assemblymember John A. Pérez was elected to represent the 46th District in Los Angeles.

Growing up in the working class communities of El Sereno and Highland Park, John’s parents taught him the value of hard work and community service.  With over 15 years working within the labor movement, John has channeled these values into fighting to create jobs, expand healthcare and protect workers’ rights.

Knowing that opportunity and a path to success are not always easy to find, John has worked tirelessly to create jobs for local residents.  He helped lead the effort to mandate a local hire agreement requiring 30% of all major construction jobs to be dedicated to local residents and those in need, providing those individuals with valuable experience and training in skilled professions.  He also played a leading role in the increase of the California minimum wage.

Having worked both in housing projects and with immigrants on job sites to improve wages, healthcare and benefits, John also has a deep understanding of the daily struggles that so many working families endure just to survive.  John helped organize tenants to learn about lead exposure and abatement programs, implemented free lead screening tests, and instituted education efforts for residents in developments impacted by lead exposure.

John’s work on behalf of the community has been recognized by various elected officials and organizations.  Three mayors, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have appointed John to major Los Angeles City Commissions.  Former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg appointed John to serve on a Blue Ribbon panel studying state initiative reform. John also received a Presidential appointment to serve on the President’s Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS.

In addition to his work in the labor movement, John serves as an elected member of the Democratic National Committee.  John has served as a board member for the California League of Conservation Voters, AIDS Project Los Angeles, the Latino Coalition against AIDS, the California Center for Regional Leadership, and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.

(Biography Source:  Assemblyman John Pérez).

Source:  Vernon Billy is President of Governmental Solutions Group, LLC,a policy consulting and legislative advocacy firm.