SKELTON: The keys to GOP comeback: camaraderie, good ideas

  • Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, welcomes freshman Sen. Cathleen Galgiani,D-Stockton, to the Senate at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. Both houses of the Legislature met for the first time since Democrats secured supermajorities in both houses. Galgiani had been termed out of the Assembly and defeated Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, R-Ceres for the Senate seat. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Paul Priolo remembers the last time Democrats enjoyed a supermajority in the state Assembly. He was the Republican leader. And his strategy was simple.

"I socialized with Democrats," he says. "That was my key to getting along and overcoming the handicap of their having a supermajority .<TH>.<TH>. They were the leaders and the ones you tried to get next to.

"We'd fight during the day and go out to dinner together at night. But that's a thing of the past."

Yes, that's largely history. Thanks in part to then-Gov. Jerry Brown's post-Watergate political reform that ended the practice of lobbyists picking up the meal and bar tabs of legislators.

Today, instead of buying $20 dinners for lawmakers as they used to, special interests kick in $2,000 campaign donations at their cracker-and-cheese fundraisers.

But a bigger reason for the nighttime lifestyle change — in Sacramento as elsewhere — was the crackdown on drunken driving.

Increased partisanship and polarization also are at fault. Democratic and Republican legislators just don't hang as they used to.

"I got along quite well with Jerry, as a matter of fact," Priolo says. "He was part of our dinner group. We used to gather once a week for a crab feed, and Jerry would come quite often. Course, he was uninvited. He just showed up and dominated the conversation. We tolerated him. After all, he was the governor."

A new Legislature was sworn in Monday, and for the first time since the 1975-79 era, the Assembly is controlled by an ironclad two-thirds Democratic majority.

In fact, for the first time in 80 years both houses are dominated by supermajorities, enough heft for Democrats to pass any legislation without Republican support.

© The Press Democrat |  Terms of Service |  Privacy Policy |  Jobs With Us |  RSS |  Advertising |  Sonoma Media Investments |  Place an Ad
Switch to our Mobile View