By Ken Jackson
The Capitol community received some shocking news last week as Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) announced his resignation from the California State Senate. In his press release, Rubio explained his decision to resign was to meet the needs of his growing family, especially those of his special needs daughter.
Senator Rubio, a moderate Democrat, was elected to the Senate in 2010. He was recently appointed as Chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee by Senate pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). He was widely expected to push and implement major reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) this year. The morning of his resignation, Senator Steinberg held a press conference on SB 731, the CEQA spot bill introduced to begin the reform discussion with business and labor.
Senator Rubio’s departure leaves the State Senate one more vote short of the coveted supermajority it held immediately after the 2012 General Election. At that time, the Senate held a 29-11 vote advantage. But due to the mid-term resignations of Senators Gloria Negrete-McLeod (D-Chino, Senate District 32) and Juan Vargas (D-San Diego, Senate District 40), to take their seats in Congress, the vote count dropped by two. Now, with Rubio gone, the legislative session will be half over before the Senate regains its two-thirds majority.
Special elections have been scheduled for the current vacancies and the Governor has 14 days from the day of resignation to call a special election to fill Rubio’s seat, which will likely occur this summer. As is the case with the other even-numbered vacancies, the “old” SD 16 lines will be used for the special election. Whoever wins will serve the remainder of the term representing the “old” district and then in 2014 be eligible to run for a full term in the “new” district – SD 14.
Two possible candidates are fellow moderate Democrat Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno) and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway (R-Visalia), although other names are beginning to surface. Worth mentioning is that SD 16 is a solid Democrat district, with 51 percent registered Democrats and 28 percent Republicans.