Pressing a multi-front war on new Assembly Speaker Doris Allen, a group of Orange County Republicans on Wednesday pushed ahead with recall plans, while irate GOP colleagues announced their intention to test her allegiance during today's floor session.
Allen (R-Cypress) will preside over the Assembly for the first time today after her election Monday--engineered by outgoing Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco)--and fireworks seem inevitable.
The new Speaker is also preparing to dump several committee chairmen, sources say, including her Orange County colleague Assemblyman Curt Pringle (R--Garden Grove), who heads the Appropriations Committee. She is also seeking to name a replacement for House Republican Leader Jim Brulte.
On Wednesday, a group of citizens from the lawmaker's Cypress-based district--saying Allen is beholden to Brown--attempted twice to serve her with a recall notice, but she was out of her Capitol office both times.
After the Speaker's staff said they did not know where she was, the recall proponents gave up the search, walked to a post office and sent the notice to Allen by certified mail.
"She's ducking it," said Jim Righeimer, an aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), who is leading the recall. "It's beyond belief that the staff of the Speaker of the Assembly doesn't know where she is."
But he said Allen "couldn't hide for long," vowing to collect the more than 25,000 signatures of voters in her district needed to put the recall on the ballot. Righeimer estimated that proponents would need 90 days to qualify the recall, but conceded that the timetable means Allen probably will not be challenged before the Legislature recesses in mid-September.
"To have someone who is supposedly a Republican from Orange County become a puppet to Willie Brown is just too much to stomach," Righeimer said. "The sentiment is very strong in the district against her."
Allen, who stayed behind closed doors all day meeting with various Assembly members in an attempt to expand her power base beyond the bloc of Democrats who catapulted her to the speakership, later issued a press release blasting the recall attempt.
"I can't imagine on what grounds they will base this recall," Allen said in the statement. "I find it ironic that my commitment to the Republican Party is being questioned when I have been the only Republican with the ability to successfully unseat Willie Brown."
Allen also said she has "always been an active and loyal member of the Republican Party and I will continue to be." She suggested that a recall would be a waste of tax dollars, especially given Orange County's precarious financial situation in the aftermath of losing $1.7 billion in investments last year and declaring bankruptcy.
"The money this recall would cost could be better spent on textbooks and public safety," Allen said in the statement. "The second most powerful job in the state is in the hands of an Orange County resident. All of Orange County should celebrate my achievement. I am sad that the narrow political game playing would attempt to mar this Orange County Republican triumph."
Republicans are angry that Brown engineered Allen's selection the day before a special election gave the GOP a majority. Brown, who is running for mayor of San Francisco, would probably have been deposed after Tuesday's special election if Allen had joined with her peers. The new lawmaker, Bob Margett (R-Arcadia), will be sworn into office today, changing the balance from a 39-39 tie to 40-39 for Republicans, with one vacancy.
Meanwhile, other Assembly Republicans--who backed GOP Leader Brulte in Monday's leadership fight--vowed to put Allen's credentials as a conservative to a test today by requesting to pull directly to the floor key GOP bills killed this year in committee.
Among the legislation being eyed are Gov. Pete Wilson's proposed 15% tax cut, a plan to jettison affirmative action and several anti-abortion issues. Unlike most of her Democratic supporters, Allen opposes abortion.
The Republicans also plan to press for changes to internal Assembly rules pushed through by Allen and the Democrats on Monday, when the once-innocuous GOP veteran won the speakership. Republicans will ask that--given their new edge over Democrats--they be given a majority on all committees.
They will also ask that the makeup of the powerful Rules Committee be altered so that the full Republican membership, and not Allen, be allowed to select the party's representatives on the panel, which controls major issues in the house.
The upshot of the effort, GOP insiders said, is to push Allen into a corner with the Democrats and expose her as a turncoat ripe for recall.
"The guerrilla warfare starts [today] on the floor," said Assemblyman Larry Bowler (R-Elk Grove). "We will be testing Doris Allen to see whether she is going to vote with the Republicans. . . . It's up to her. This will be a test for Doris' mettle. She says she is a Republican. Let's see if she is or not. Today is D-day for her."
Democrats said they expect the GOP to try to sabotage Allen at her first official floor session as Speaker.
"It's typical of Republican behavior," said Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar). "They are more interested in gridlock, in partisanship and in settling old scores than doing the people's business. And I think that's going to hurt them."
Although there were no announcements Wednesday, Allen prepared a short list of committee chairmen she intends to replace, probably beginning today. Capitol sources said that Pringle would lose his appropriations chairmanship and be replaced by Valerie Brown (D-Sonoma), and that Paula Boland (R-Granada Hills) would no longer run the Public Safety Committee.
In addition, John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) is likely to be replaced by Charles Poochigian (R-Fresno) as chairman of the Budget Committee. Trice Harvey (R-Bakersfield) is expected to lose control of the Agriculture Committee, with Brian Setencich (R-Fresno) taking over as chairman.
Allen offered Assemblyman Peter Frusetta (R-Tres Pinos) the post of Republican floor leader now held by Brulte, but he declined. "In good conscience, I couldn't do that," he said.
Frusetta and the Assembly's other Republican freshmen--who to a person campaigned last year on the issue of changing the Byzantine ways of the state Capitol--held a closed-door meeting and emerged to announce that they would write a letter to Allen urging her to allow the GOP caucus to select its own floor leader.