Riverside County GOP endorses Melendez for Assembly leader

Members of the Riverside County Republican Party expressed their desire for a change in state Assembly GOP leadership Thursday night, withdr...

Members of the Riverside County Republican Party expressed their desire for a change in state Assembly GOP leadership Thursday night, withdrawing their support from Chad Mayes and endorsing Melissa Melendez to replace him.

Melendez (left), who represents Murrieta, Menifee and surrounding cities, addressed the GOP committee meeting at the Mission Inn in Riverside. With Mayes sitting in the audience, she announced her intention to challenge him for the GOP leadership position.

"I am ready and willing to be the type of leader you have been asking for," Melendez said. "When the session returns on Monday, I will be throwing my hat into the ring for Assembly Republican leader."

The meeting drew an unusually large crowd, attracted not only by the appearance of Melendez as guest speaker, but by the appearance of Mayes. The GOP Assembly leader drew criticism from Republicans last month when he voted in favor of renewing the state's cap-and-trade program. Many in the crowd of more than 300 applauded the comments of Melendez, who opposed the legislation, and booed Mayes, who spoke in defense of his vote.

Cap-and-trade requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gas emissions. Promoted by Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic supporters as necessary to address climate change, the legislation will also result in a dramatic increase in gas prices, critics say. Mayes was one of eight Republicans to vote in favor of the program extension, which passed by one vote more than the 54 required.

Melendez resigned as assistant GOP Assembly leader following the vote. Since then, Melendez has been moved to a small Capitol office known as the "Dog House" and has been removed from other committee leadership positions.

"It wasn't just the Democratic majority that did this to us," Melendez said. "A super majority means 54 votes. Democrats have 54 seats. They can do anything they want without us. Yet Republicans assisted in passing taxes where the super majority would have otherwise failed.

"That bill (cap-and-trade) had zero chance of passing a few days before the vote. The Democrats didn't have the votes. The bill was dead. Fast forward a few days and with little discussion at all, a deal was struck. You will hear tonight, perhaps, that the alternative to cap-and-trade was far worse than the bill that was actually passed. Let me ask you, if the alternative was so horrible, why didn't every Democrat vote for this bill?

"For people to trust us, to trust our methods and by extension our policies, they have to know we're going to be there when it matters -- that we're not going to do the exact opposite of what we said we stood for."

The reception was much different for Mayes, who appeared at the request of Republicans demanding an explanation of his vote on cap-and-trade.

"The choice for us was, are the Republicans going to be relevant in the discussion or are we going to decide that Democrats own the state?" asked Mayes (right), following Melendez to the podium. "The truth is, a No vote on cap-and-trade could also be thought of as a Yes vote on 'Command and Control', which means gas prices would've increased by $1.25. If you had a choice between $1.25 and 40 cents a gallon, which one would you choose?

"You guys send us up to Sacramento to engage in a policy making process to try to make this state better. We don't want the Democrats to own this state. We've got to engage in the discussion as many times as we can. This vote should be praised."

That comment was met with a chorus of boos. After taking a few questions, Mayes left the meeting to attend another function. Shortly thereafter, the voting members on the floor voted to go on record as requesting the removal of Mayes as GOP Assembly leader. Following that, they voted to endorse Melendez for that position.

Thursday's meeting was conducted by Jonathan Ingram, chair of the Riverside County Republican Party. He also serves as mayor pro tem on the Murrieta City Council.

Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, has served on the Assembly since 2014. Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, has served since 2012.

A ballroom of the Mission Inn was filled Thursday for the Riverside County GOP meeting.
Menifee 24/7 photos: Doug Spoon




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