Thursday, December 3, 2009

California’s First Gay Assembly Speaker

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Dec 3, 2009 at 10:38 AM

Democratic Assemblyman John Perez of Los Angeles is about to become the state’s first openly gay speaker of the Assembly. The position will make Perez the highest-ranking gay politician in California history. The speaker is generally considered the second or third most powerful position in state politics, after the governor and the Senate president pro tem.

Current Speaker Karen Bass, also of the LA area, said Perez has her support and the backing of a majority of Assembly members. Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley and Mary Hayashi of Hayward also are backing Perez, according to Capitol Weekly. Bass has said she plans to step down from the position early next year.

Perez has only served in the Assembly for one year, which means he likely will be speaker for five years, thereby allowing him to solidify his power base and influence over an extended period. His long tenure also promises to increase the influence of the Assembly. He is the cousin of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and is chair of Assembly Democratic Caucus.

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