Sam Blakeslee Elected Next Assembly GOP Leader

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, May 7, 2009
There’s a change in leadership for State Assembly Republicans and that could have a big impact on state budget talks this summer. 
The GOP caucus today (Thursday 5.7) elected Sam Blakeslee to replace Mike Villines (vill-LINES) who’s stepping down as party leader on June first.
Capital Public Radio's Steve Shadley Reports…

Mike Villines spent two-and-a-half years as the assembly Republican leader. 
He helped broker the February budget deal that included tax increases.  It was wildly unpopular among Republicans. 
But Villines denies it was political pressure within his party that led to his decision to resign…  
“The truth is I’ve always wanted a transition.  I wasn’t open with everybody about when I would want a transition but I was able to communicate with my wife and kids and we sort of done our service at this level and now we need to sort of re-focus on our family and we need to focus on some issues that I really care about…”
Villines terms out in 18 months.  He says he’ll stay active on budget reform.  And, he’s not ruling out a run for statewide office.
Sam Blakeslee will take over the top GOP Assembly job... 
“You know I see myself as a very principled fiscal hawk...”
He was elected unanimously by the caucus... 
“I’ve always been someone who believes that the first job we have is to make sure we have made government more affordable, more efficient.  I’ve come from a business background where during tough times where when we make cuts it has actually made us more competitive as a business.  I think California needs to take the exact same approach…” 
Blakeslee says he’s gained a reputation as a “green” Republican.  He says he’s worked with democrats and Governor Schwarzenegger on a variety of bills to protect the environment.
So, what does the transition in power mean for California’s fiscal crisis…given the special election is just days away?    
Jack Pitney is a Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College… 
“The budget negotiations were going to be difficult anyway.  And now there going to be even more difficult if such a thing is even possible.  Also, the package of measures  on the ballot is likely to fail and fail by a big margin.  That’s going to make the pressure on the legislature all the greater…”
Blakeslee says he’s ready to tackle that pressure.  He says after the state’s financial crunch is resolved…he wants to focus on improving public schools, crime and reforming state government. 
Blakeslee will be termed out of office next year. 
The state senate also has a fairly new republican leader.  Dave Cogdill, who helped negotiate the budget deal was ousted in a late night vote in February.  He was replaced by Dennis Hollingsworth.