Column: California Senate Republicans take a step back from Trump with new leader



A Republican reasonable takes over as state Senate minority chief this week — a small, post-Trump step that would assist rejuvenate the California GOP.

Sen. Scott Wilk, 61, of Santa Clarita is a throwback Republican lawmaker, the sort wanted by the GOP if it’s ever going to maneuver ahead and regain legislative relevancy.

He’s a self-described “sensible conservative” who strives towards bipartisanship and sometimes coauthors payments with Democrats.

“I don’t poke them within the eye,” he mentioned. “I attempt to be very civil. That’s very a lot missing in at present’s world.”

Wilk’s model of conservatism makes him a reasonable by modern requirements, during which politics are polarized into gridlock. What retains Sacramento churning is one-party rule. Democrats are so dominant that they’ll enact something they unite behind. Sadly, with out ballast on the precise, the bulk occasion typically veers too far left.

What stays of the weakened Senate Republican Caucus realized the necessity for change. And that’s a superb signal for the GOP and for two-party democracy.

However there’s a tragic historical past for reasonable Republican leaders within the state Capitol. Right here’s the sample: Once they’ve moved too far to the middle — voted for tax will increase, fought local weather change or not proven sufficient partisanship — they’ve been dumped.

Against this, Wilk’s predecessor was dumped partly as a result of she’s too far on the precise fringe.

Sen. Shannon Grove, 55, of Bakersfield most likely would have been axed anyway, as a result of she dedicated an unpardonable sin: Two Republican seats have been misplaced within the November election, on her watch. When that occurs, the chief is normally ousted.

In the meantime, Republicans scored elsewhere in California. They picked up one Meeting seat and 4 within the U.S. Home.

Republicans are right down to 9 state Senate seats. Democrats maintain a supermajority of 30. As well as, there’s one emptiness that’s certain to be stuffed by a Democrat — the seat held by Holly Mitchell earlier than she was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The final time Senate Republicans have been near this weak was in 1961, when there have been solely 10 of them. Lengthy earlier than that, in 1883, there have been eight.

Meeting Republicans aren’t significantly better off. There are solely 19 of them, in opposition to 59 Democrats. There’s a emptiness and one impartial — former GOP chief Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley, who was thought-about too reasonable and dumped. Then he dumped the occasion.

The present Meeting GOP chief is Marie Waldron of Escondido, who retains a low profile.

Against this, Grove’s profile was too excessive and too cringey for many Senate Republicans. She as soon as described herself as a “gun-carrying, tongue-talking, spirit-filled believer.”


She was a vigorous follower of former President Trump, calling him “the best of all time.” Grove purchased Trump’s lie that Democrats stole the election with voter fraud.

After being declared the winner by everybody besides the booted president and his devoted, Joe Biden tweeted that People ought to “put away the tough rhetoric.” Grove retweeted with a retort: “Oh, I don’t suppose so.”

The clincher for Senate Republicans got here Jan. 6, when a lethal, Trump-crazed mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. Grove posted a tweet falsely claiming that the rioters have been led by the leftist motion referred to as antifa, not by Trump supporters. She shortly deleted it, however not earlier than it popped eyes all through the California political world.

“That is an instance of a Trumpian legislator who peddled conspiracy theories in regards to the election paying the worth and dropping a management publish,” veteran Republican guide Rob Stutzman mentioned. “Members of the caucus have been listening to from the enterprise neighborhood that in the event that they anticipated enterprise to fund Republican election efforts, they wanted to make a change.”

In fact, main enterprise donors have virtually given up on the GOP in California and have been specializing in electing reasonable Democrats to the Legislature.

“Wilk is an efficient instance of the kind of big-tent Republican that the California GOP must win,” mentioned Marty Wilson, government vice chairman of the state Chamber of Commerce and a longtime political participant. “He’s a man who is aware of easy methods to win by speaking about one thing aside from Donald Trump.”

Wilk, the previous proprietor of a public affairs agency who started his profession as a legislative staffer, represents a purple district that covers the Santa Clarita, Antelope and Victor valleys. It’s a aggressive district that barely favors Democrats in voter registration, by about eight proportion factors. Statewide, Democrats maintain a whopping benefit over Republicans of almost 22 factors.

Biden beat Trump within the district by six proportion factors, making it robust for down-ticket Republicans. Wilk gained reelection by a mere 1.6 factors. He’ll be termed out in 2024.

If requested, Wilk will let you know he voted for Trump as a result of the choice was Biden. What else can a Republican chief say? Six million Californians voted for Trump, even when 11.1 million supported Biden.

Wilk doesn’t suppose the election was stolen. He appears like he needs poisonous Trump would get misplaced and depart the occasion alone.

Trump was “an excessive amount of,” Wilk mentioned. “He sucked all of the oxygen out of the room.

“With Trump not there, hopefully individuals will begin turning their consideration to what’s happening in Sacramento,” he added. “Schooling, roads, water — all decided in Sacramento.”

Wilk turned down a request to co-chair the recall marketing campaign in opposition to Gov. Gavin Newsom. If it qualifies for the poll, “I’ll be supportive,” he mentioned. However as a result of the Democrat will face reelection subsequent 12 months anyway, that’s the right time to oust him, the GOP chief contends.

Wilk is a flip in the precise route for the GOP — management rerouting towards the middle.


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