Once The Darling Of The GOP Establishment, Mayes Testing Political Limits Of Independence

Assemblyman Chad Mayes, who built a towering political career on a bedrock of right wing conservatism in what is arguably the most reliably Republican political jurisdiction in the State of California, finds his political future in doubt, shortly after boldly pulling out of the GOP and seeking to find his way in the world as an independent.
While Mayes has not been drummed out of the statehouse just yet, over most of the next eight months it appears that Mayes will likely prove a test case to determine if Republican holders of state office in California can realistically maintain their public careers by departing from the Party of Lincoln, either out of a sincerely arrived-at philosophical break with the establishment they have formerly embraced or as part of a strategy to salvage their electability by abandoning the political organization that has grown lopsidedly out of favor with the state’s voters.
Indeed, if Mayes is to remain in office, it is clear at this point that he is going to need the support of a sizable contingent of the 42nd Assembly District’s Democratic voters, an alignment that as recently as six months ago would have been outright unthinkable.
In 2014, when Mayes first successfully ran for the legislature in State Assembly District 42, 41 percent of  the voters in the district were Republicans, a sizable lead over registered Democrats, then at just under 34 percent. In the six years since, the Republican registration advantage in the 42nd has slipped. Now, roughly 35.74 percent of the district’s voters are affiliated with the Republican Party, slightly less than the 36.19 percent of the voters there who are registered as Democrats. Still, in District 42, as virtually everywhere else, Republicans turn out to vote in far greater numbers than do Democrats. In the case of the 42nd District, that voter participation advantage is better than 8 percent. Last year, before Chad Mayes precipitously changed his registration to no party preference, the Republican Party at the state level as well as both the San Bernardino County and Riverside County central committees, the regional organs of the GOP, endorsed Mayes. Mayes’ parting from the Republicans, taken the first week of December, forced all three of the party’s arms into making a rather awkward rescission of those endorsements.
A question now stands as to whether Mayes can endure as a politician.
The son of Roger Mayes, who is the pastor of Grace Community Church and one of the most influential members of the Yucca Valley Community, Chad Mayes established himself as a rock-ribbed conservative in the town of nearly 21,000 by following his father’s formula, which equated Godliness with goodliness and virtue with conservatism and conservatism with Republicanism. In the universe the Reverend Mayes occupies along with the Grace Community Church’s parishioners, big government is the work of the devil and Satan counts among his legion of followers the members of the Democratic Party, which is forever imposing its “liberal” will on the individual while militating against smaller government.
After attending and graduating at the age of 16 from his father’s Grace Christian School, Mayes took some courses at Copper Mountain College before, in accordance with his parents’ wishes, matriculating at Liberty University, a private evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia. Studies at Liberty University have a conservative Christian orientation, requiring Bible-studies classes for undergraduate students. Those attending the university are prohibited from engaging in premarital sex, and private interactions between opposite genders are not allowed. A self proclaimed “bastion of the Christian right,” Liberty University is considered a breeding ground for Republican politicians. While attending Liberty University, Chad Mayes interned for Senator John Ashcroft in Washington, D.C.
After graduating from college and arriving back in Yucca Valley, the Reverend Mayes’ son embarked on the path his father had hoped he would. While working as a financial advisor, young Mayes entered the world of politics. In no little measure because the Reverend Roger Mayes commended his church members to lend his son their support, Chad Mayes was elected to the Yucca Valley Town Council in 2002 when former Marine Colonel Paul Cook was that body’s mayor. Cook went on to the California Assembly and then Congress. Young Mayes succeeded Cook as mayor and subsequently made his way to the Assembly.
Throughout his time as a local politician, Mayes conducted himself as a true believer, adhering to Republican principles at every turn. With his wife, Shannon, by his side, Mayes was portrayed as the perfect Christian family man.
His arrival in Sacramento, however, presented for him, as it does every Republican politician, a challenge of faith and mettle. The Democratic Party dominates the city, as it controls the governorship, has a supermajority in the upper legislative house – the California Senate – as well as a supermajority in the lower legislative house – the Assembly – and controls virtually every major state office, including that of secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, insurance commissioner and secretary of education. Sacramento is for California’s Republicans virtually indistinguishable from Sodom or Gomorrah.
Among the slim ranks of Republicans in Sacramento, Mayes advanced rapidly. Thirteen months after he was sworn into California’s lower legislative house, he was made minority leader of the California State Assembly. It was while in that position that the loose morals of the Democrats that surrounded him began to pervade his existence. Mays had succeeded Kristen Olsen as minority leader of the Assembly. According to Olsen’s now ex-husband, it was while Olsen was minority leader that she initiated an affair with Mayes. In 2017, both Mayes and Olsen filed for divorces.
Also in 2017, Mayes made what Republicans considered to be a sharp turn away from the central tenets of the Republican Party.
In the 1970s, what was then a bipartisan effort was undertaken toward reducing air pollution in Southern California along several tracks, including implementing smog control on vehicles as well as reducing smokestack emissions. On the latter track, efforts were made to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other combustion byproducts from industrial operations, including the use of scrubbers and other emission control devices on smokestacks. In addition, the concept of preventing the expansion of air polluting industry was hit upon through the use of what at that time were labeled air pollution credits. In this way, a company’s emission levels were measured after all possible reduction measures on its smokestacks were effectuated, and that company was issued a permit to continue to function at that emission level. The rights of those smokestacks to exist and continue to function were “grandfathered in” at that point, and no further permits to operate smokestacks were to be issued by the government. A company with a right to operate a smokestack could shut that smokestack down, yet retain the right, or permit, to pollute. For a company to create an operation that did not previously exist which used a smokestack, that company would need to purchase existing polluting credits from a company that had possession of such available credits or rights from having retired a smokestack. The legislation creating this regime had been put together by both Democrats and Republicans. Among these was Pete Schabarum, a former NFL player turned no-nonsense conservative Republican politician. Eventually, this trading in air pollution credits became known as “cap and trade,” with “cap” referring to the limit put on the total degree of emissions to be allowed in Southern California and “trade” alluding to the ability to pass or sell the polluting right from one entity to another. Over the next generation, the concept of cap and trade  became anathema to the pro-business Republican Party, which saw the limitations it imposed as restricting economic development in the state, despite the consideration that such GOP icons as Schabarum had once embraced the concept.
In 2017, the Democrats, then in control of the governor’s office and the legislature, sought to renew existing but expiring cap and trade legislation, together with a tax-increase package they said would fight climate change. It included provisions that bumped the state’s gas tax up by at least 63 cents per gallon and as much as 90 cents per gallon, and an electricity rate increase of somewhere between 10 and 20 percent.  Mayes, as Republican Assembly leader in concert with six other Assembly Republicans, went along with then-Governor Jerry Brown and the Democrats in extending the state’s cap-and-trade program and adopting the new energy fees. Mayes at once found himself assailed on all sides by members of his own party. “Meet Chad Mayes, California’s newest tax-and-spend Republican,” screamed a headline of an editorial in the Orange County Register. The following month, his position as the head of the GOP in the lower house no longer tenable, Mayes resigned as Republican Assembly leader. From there, it seemed as if Mayes was falling ever more firmly into the clutches of Lucifer and the Democrats.
In 2018, Mayes swung behind former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in promoting, as a member of the centrist advocacy group New Way California, an approach to politics and legislation “that seeks to put people above political parties to improve the lives of all Californians.”
To many Republicans, that sounded like, at best, compromise with the Democratic enemy or, at worst, outright surrender. He was likened to Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian army officer and politician who infamously cooperated with Adolf Hitler in the German occupation of Norway. In July 2019, Mayes was critical of President Donald Trump’s insulting characterizations of Democratic politicians. That provoked further representations of Mayes as having betrayed the Republican cause. Mayes compounded the situation by suggesting the president lacked civility and decency.
In December, when he left the party to re-register as a voter unaffiliated with any political party, Mayes was the second Republican legislator that year to make a point of leaving the Party of Lincoln. In ending his GOP affiliation, Assemblyman Brian Maienschein of San Diego had gone all the way, re-registering as a Democrat. Mayes did not do that, but acknowledged that he had been advocating for the Republicans to become more moderate in their political approach and efforts toward governance, and he said he was simply fed up with his inability to penetrate the wall of resistance he was encountering from his former party colleagues in adopting a realistic attitude of compromise and accommodation. He and his retinue of supporters pointed out that he was not the one who had left the Republican Party, but rather it was the Republicans who had left him.
“It’s something I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to,” Mayes said. “Really simply: It’s because of my frustration with the way our political system is working today. The political discord in this country is tearing us apart. Unfortunately, all politics is no longer local. It’s national.”
In making his move, just three months before the 2020 California Presidential Primary, Mayes was gambling that he could yet utilize his power of incumbency to prevail, and that his status as an officeholder would trump the pullback he would experience from the Republican Party faithful who would be offended by his action, so that he could sustain enough momentum to prevail in November.
Two others, Deniantionette Mazingo, a Democrat, and a Republican, San Jacinto Mayor Andrew Kotyuk, perhaps inspired by the discomfiture the Republican establishment was experiencing toward Mayes, had prepared to get into the 42nd District Assembly Race well before Mayes withdrew from the GOP.
Had Mayes simply remained in line with the Republican Party with which he was previously identified, there is little prospect that his place in the state legislature would be in jeopardy. The San Jacinto Mayor had nothing approaching the political war chest that Mayes had accumulated over the years, and the Republicans had already committed to backing Mayes, even though he was no longer embracing the right wing ideals of his youth. By spurning the Republicans, Mayes gave up the advantage he once enjoyed, and put himself at odds with a dynamic that perhaps even he did not fully understand. He was defying his roots.
The results of the March 3 election were telling. In the end, Mayes achieved a plurality of the vote, though not by a substantial margin. Overall in the 42nd District, which straddles both San Bernardino and Riverside counties, with more of its voters in Riveside County than San Bernardino County, Mayes claimed 40,875 votes or 35.3 percent. Kotyuk captured 39,009 votes or 33.7 percent. Mazingo managed 35,786 votes or 30.9 percent. Looking at a breakdown county by county, Mayes fared better outside of his native county than where he lives. In Riverside County, Mayes’ margin was neither convincing nor comfortable, but it was a lead. He had 31,226 votes or 36.04 percent. Mazingo polled 28,264 votes or 32.62 percent. Kotyuk was in third in Riverside County with 27,148 votes or 31.33 percent. In San Bernardino County, where Mayes is best known and where his base is, or actually was, Kotyuk beat him with 11,861 votes or 40.85 percent. Mayes brought in 9,649 votes or 33.24 percent. Mazingo received 7,522 votes or 25.91 percent.
Mayes now finds himself in something of an electoral fix.
In years past, Chad Mayes had relied upon the support of his father, the Reverend Roger Mayes, the champion of the Republicans in Morongo Valley, to crack the whip that would drive the Republican faithful to the polls to vote in favor of his son. That huge electoral weapon, upon which he was so dependent, is no longer in Chad Mayes’ political panoply. Simultaneously, as the calendar progresses toward November, Kotyuk, now the official standard bearer of the Republicans, will have time to inform the Republican voters out in Riverside County that he is the only Republican in the race, and of Mayes’ defection from the GOP fold. Certainly, Mayes cannot count on bringing in a higher percentage of Republican votes from Riverside County in November than he did this month, and in all likelihood, with the Republican Party now campaigning against him, he can realistically expect that there will be substantially less support for him among the Republican Party faithful throughout the 42nd District. Thus, Mayes must now see his base reconstituted from the locked-in Republican vote that made him victorious in 2014, 2016 and 2018, to the independent vote and Democratic vote in the 42nd District, a segment that has nowhere near the rate of voter turnout as do the Republicans. Moreover, Mayes, who for years was branded and sold as the darling of the right wing representing the Golden State’s bulwark against the sinful and wasteful Democrats who had grown fat and sloppy by profligately spending taxpayer money, will now need to sidle up to those Democrats to convince them he is really their friend. So too, with every overture he makes to woo the Democrats, Mayes runs the risk of informing those Republicans in the further reaches of the 42nd District who may not yet have heard that he left the Republican Party that he is no longer true to their ideals.
-Mark Gutglueck

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