SACRAMENTO — AMID howls of protest from the Republican majority in the California Assembly, flamboyant House leader Willie Brown engineered his reelection early Jan. 24 to the post he has held a record 14 years.
Since the Nov. 8 election gave Republicans 41 seats in the 80-member Assembly, the San Francisco Democrat has been using every trick in the book to keep the powerful job.
Mr. Brown finally defeated Republican leader Jim Brulte in a 40 to 39 roll-call vote for speaker after the Assembly voted 40 to 39 in a separate vote to oust Republican Richard Mountjoy, who had been elected to the Senate but planned to stay in the Assembly long enough to vote against Brown.
``It's the most corrupt power play in the history of the state of California,'' said Mr. Mountjoy, who was not allowed to vote on whether he could be ousted. Once Mountjoy was out, Brown was in.
``I hope you can sleep tonight after you rip off the people,'' said Republican Assemblyman Trice Harvey. ``Cast your phony vote. I hope you feel good about yourself.''
Republican Assemblyman Ross Johnson argued that both the attorney general and legislative counsel had issued opinions saying that it should take more than 40 votes to remove a sitting legislator.
But Brown said the Assembly needed to break the deadlock, which began on Dec. 5, and move on. ``Every single solitary step has been engaged in to try to get the house moving,'' he said.
For two months Brown has kept the Republicans from claiming the speakership, using a combination of the parliamentary and back-room wheeling and dealing skills that have made him a California political legend.
A key device was to persuade maverick Republican Paul Horcher to declare himself an independent and support Brown for Speaker.