SACRAMENTO — With Assemblyman Willie Brown's blessing, Democrats on Monday elected Orange County Republican Assemblywoman Doris Allen as Speaker, making her the first woman to ever hold the post and the first Republican chosen in nearly 25 years.
"California really does begin a new era," Allen proclaimed as she accepted the speakership. The new Speaker promised to work with both Democrats and Republicans to "change the debate from politics to policy." But her selection immediately incurred the wrath of all other GOP lawmakers and Republican leaders statewide.
Allen won the speakership with no Republican votes--except her own. She agreed to give Brown the newly created post of Speaker emeritus. Under the arrangement, Brown will lead Democrats in state budget negotiations this summer, and he said he will move into Assembly Republican Leader Jim Brulte's elegant turn-of-the-century office.
Ironically, state workers Monday night were moving Brulte into the vacant office of his political nemesis Paul Horcher, the Republican-turned-Independent who denied Brulte the crucial vote necessary to unseat Brown last December. Horcher, of Diamond Bar, was recalled last month.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday June 7, 1995 Home Edition Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 2 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
New Assembly Speaker--A quote in a Times story Tuesday about newly elected Assembly Speaker Doris Allen's hair was wrongly attributed to Assemblyman Bill Hoge (R-Pasadena). The statement was made by another Republican assemblyman, Bill Morrow of Oceanside.
Allen also has agreed that most, if not all, Democrats will keep their current committee assignments as part of what they call a "power-sharing" arrangement, in which they lead equal numbers of committees and have parity with Republicans on those committees.
"I am a Republican. My vote reflects that," said Allen, who becomes the 59th Speaker of the California Assembly. "I still vote Republican."
After the dramatic vote, Brown made clear that he remains the single most powerful member of the lower house. He said he expects to be elected leader of the Democrats today.
Brown, who was in the 15th year of his speakership, longer than anyone in state history, also took much credit for the election of Allen.
"I was the first African American Speaker ever, and now I get a chance to do what I always wanted to do, and that is see that women get empowered in this place," Brown said, pointing out that he cast the last vote, giving Allen her measure of victory.
Answering a question about his feelings on passing the gavel to a woman, Brown said: "Isn't that incredible, isn't that incredible, isn't that incredible? That is absolutely incredible--and it's not affirmative action, not affirmative action at all, no special assistance, no preference. Those white boys got taken, fair and square."
The lower house has 39 Democrats and 39 Republicans, including Allen, with two vacancies. Allen was elected on a 40-38 vote. Brulte, who engineered the Republicans' electoral gains last year that saw them gain a majority for the first time since 1969, received 38 votes--all the Republicans but Allen.
Allen's effort to secure the speakership began in recent weeks, when the previously obscure lawmaker from Cypress began seeking support from other Republicans. When none was forthcoming, Allen turned to the Democrats.
Seeing that Brown's tenure was ending, and realizing that no other acceptable Republican was emerging, Democrats agreed to deal with the moderate Allen, after she promised to protect their committee assignments and staff through the 1996 election.
A native of Missouri, Allen, 59, has been a relatively obscure lawmaker since she vaulted from an Orange County school board seat to the Assembly in 1982, unseating Democrat Chet Wray.
Like many other Republicans from the conservative enclave, Allen had a tough time pushing through legislation. But she has shown a willingness to occasionally mold compromises with the Democratic majority.
She also has tangled with Republicans in the past, challenging them over leadership choices and issues such as what she saw as mismanagement of the state Department of Fish and Game. She sponsored a successful statewide initiative in 1990 banning the use of gill nets in coastal waters, over fishermen's objections, as a marine mammal protection measure.
Her most bruising intra-party fight came earlier this year when she and then-Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-Placentia) battled for a vacant state Senate seat. She lost and blamed Brulte for helping Johnson and not her. Ever since, she has been angry and announced that she would challenge Brulte for control of the Assembly.
Allen, a solid vote for public school funding, is one of the few Assembly Republicans to receive large donations from the California Teachers Assn., one of the most powerful lobbies in Sacramento and one of the most closely aligned with Democrats. She received about $100,000 for the Senate race against Johnson from various public school groups.
"I hope I can bring them to a comfort zone," she said of her angry fellow Republicans.
For the most part, however, Republicans slighted her on Monday. After the vote was cast, and Allen had sufficient numbers to become Speaker, Brown made a parliamentary move that would have allowed Republicans to switch their votes and endorse her. None did.