Portantino to run for speaker

GLENDALE — With the failure of a proposal to extend term limits for state lawmakers, and the resulting lame-duck status for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, sophomore Assemblyman Anthony Portantino announced Thursday that he will run to replace Nuñez.

California voters on Tuesday denied Proposition 93, which would have allowed Nuñez to stay in office for another six years, opening the door for other Democrats to assume the top leadership role in the Assembly.

As of Friday, Portantino was reportedly up against at least seven candidates, including Assemblyman Mike Feuer of Los Angeles and Assemblyman Kevin De Leon, who represents Hollywood.

“I felt it important to step up, enter the race and try to bring my brand of positive problem-solving and positive hard-work ethic to the table and make my case to my colleagues and work hard,” said Portantino, whose district includes a portion of Montrose.

The Assembly Democratic Caucus, comprising all 48 Democrats in the state Assembly, decided Wednesday to hold a vote for speaker on March 11.

But if one of the candidates hasn’t by March 11 secured at least 25 votes, or a simple majority of Assembly Democrats, the caucus will suspend the vote, Nuñez said at a news conference Thursday.

The group also decided unanimously that Nuñez should remain entrenched in the speaker role until his term expires at the end of the legislative session on Aug. 31.

The speaker-elect would work closely with Nuñez immediately upon being elected, Nuñez said.

The campaign for the speakership is a delicate courting process during which candidates lobby their Assembly colleagues and work for the support of influential interest groups like organized labor and teachers unions, said Fred Register, a Los Angeles-area political consultant.

A number of Portantino’s characteristics, including his successful legislative record as a freshman assemblyman, could bode well for the former La Cañada Flintridge mayor, Register said.

And his relative inexperience in the Assembly could, in fact, work in Portantino’s favor, Register said.

Many Assembly members “are looking for someone who can learn the job and do it for at least two years and maybe three or four, which is very hard to do in the Assembly because of term limits,” he said.

Whoever lands the job will do so in a critical era in Sacramento, as the Legislature faces a projected $14-billion budget deficit next year and a potential water crisis.

On the budget, Portantino said he wants the Assembly not only to solve imminent financial woes but strive toward building a more sustainable budgeting process.

“I think it’s critical that we tackle those issues head-on,” Portantino said.

“I think one of the troubles with the state is that we haven’t really dealt with the budget other than from a year-to-year perspective. We need to put together a coalition of folks and make the case to the public of what kind of government and education system we want in California.”

 RYAN VAILLANCOURT covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at ryan.vaillancourt@latimes.com.

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