Rendon Seeks Greater Share of Power for Legislature

Assembly member Anthony Rendon speaks after being elected Speaker of the Assembly on Jan. 11, 2016.

Anthony Rendon speaks after being elected speaker of the Assembly on Jan. 11, 2016. (Jeff Walters/Assembly Democratic Caucus)

The California Assembly will swear in a new speaker today. Changes to term limit rules mean Los Angeles Democrat Anthony Rendon could be in the job for nearly a decade. And that could shift the balance of power in Sacramento.

Before running for office, Anthony Rendon used to teach political science.

“And I used to always tell my students that every government has an executive branch. Only democracies have a legislature,” he says.

Rendon, who describes himself as an introvert, isn’t shy about saying he hopes the California Legislature can take back some power from the governor’s office.

“I think that would be a good thing for democracy and I think that would be a good thing for California for us to even that out,” he says.

The 48-year-old Rendon earned the respect of his colleagues after he took a leading role in the passage of a $7.5 billion water bond. And Rendon says that with the recent changes to term limits, he’ll have more time to take on big issues.

“I think what has changed all of our approaches to the job, as an institution, is the extension of term limits to 12 years, You see that on issues pertaining to infrastructure. We want to get it right. I don’t think we rush into decisions around here at all.”

More time in office also means more time to develop relationships with colleagues. In a show of bipartisanship, Rendon asked new Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes to second Rendon’s nomination to be speaker. Mayes, of Yucca Valley, says he was honored Rendon asked, even though they have different philosophies.

“I think we both want the same end. But I think the means to get there we have vast disagreements about,” Mayes says. “But I don’t think that there’s going to be any vitriol in our relationship, and I don’t think that’s how he’s going to lead either.”

San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting has known Rendon for six years. Rendon’s biggest asset? He’s a good listener, Ting says.

“I think too often in life we spend time thinking about what am I going to tell that person to move them. Instead of why don’t I just listen to them, and really understand what they want and why they need it and what they care about,” he says. “And I think that’s one of his best skills.”

It’s a skill he’ll need to use a lot in the coming years. Democratic consultant Robin Swanson served as communications director for two years under former Speaker John Pérez. She says everything will change for Rendon once he takes over.

“You take on the role of essentially managing the operations for the entire state Assembly, which is a bigger job than you would think,” she says. “In some ways you’re both a player and coach because you’re doing both jobs. And it’s a juggling act.”

Rendon, who will be termed out in 2024, could potentially be the longest-serving speaker since Willie Brown held the post from 1980 to 1995. But he says he’s not focused on that.

“My focus is on the short term. My focus is on making sure that we accomplish what’s in front of us,” he says. “I think, to a large extent, it’s like any other job. If you’re successful in the short term, then the long term will take care of itself.”

Rendon takes over as speaker, succeeding Toni Atkins, after a ceremony at the state Capitol this afternoon.

Rendon Seeks Greater Share of Power for Legislature 7 March,2016Katie Orr


Katie Orr

Katie Orr is a Sacramento-based reporter for KQED’s Politics and Government  Desk, covering the state Capitol and a variety of issues including women in politics, voting and elections and legislation. Prior to joining KQED in 2016, Katie was state government reporter for Capital Public Radio in Sacramento. She’s also worked for KPBS in San Diego, where she covered City Hall.

Katie received her masters degree in political science from San Diego State University and holds a Bachelors degree in broadcast journalism from Arizona State University.

In 2015 Katie won a national Clarion Award for a series of stories she did on women in California politics. She’s been honored by the Society for Professional Journalists and, in 2013, was named by The Washington Post as one of the country’s top state Capitol reporters.   She’s also reported for the award-winning documentary series The View from Here and was part of the team that won  national PRNDI and  Gabriel Awards in 2015. She lives in Sacramento with her husband. Twitter: @1KatieOrr

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