Forty-one is the magic number in the California Assembly. The person who can assemble 41 votes in the 80-member house controls--and usually controls by having himself elected Speaker. On any given day in Sacramento this spring thereare at least 41 members of the Assembly who would like to replace San Francisco Democrat Willie Brown as Speaker.
The problem is that no one has been able to assemble 41 votes. The Democrats’ dissidentGang of Five has tried to form a coalition with Republicans, but the Gang of Five will not votefor a Republican for Speaker, and, if there is to be a Speakership change, the Republicans insist that it be one of their own.
To complicate matters, Republicans are not totally united. The GOP has its own rump groupof members reportedly unhappy with Minority Leader Pat Nolan (R-Glendale), who normallywould be the leading GOP candidate for Speaker. Republicans took a shot at Brown last week and fell short. The Gang of Five tried on Monday and failed.
While Assembly members play this silly political numbers game, very little else is happening in the Legislature. With the mood of tension and uncertainty, members are reluctant to push their legislation for fear that it will become ensnarled in the Speakership fight.
The Republicans and the Gang of Five have had their opportunities for now. The Speakership fight has become a soap opera without a script and without stars. There will be a change in Speakers only when someone exhibits the leadership andthe cause required to attract 41 votes. Then, let there be a showdown and have it over with. For now, the Assembly should abandon this nonsense and get on with the business of California.