It seems like something one might read about in a Soviet satire but, rest assured, this tale is vintage Sacramento politics. According to a spokesman with the office of Speaker of the Assembly Fabian Nunez (D-LA), local assemblyman Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) recently shifted into more hospitable digs in the capital building after a bizarre sanction of a dissenting Democrat, Assemblyman Juan Arambula of Fresno. Despite the oddness of the vent, Nunezâ€™s spokesman Steve Mauiglao called the demotion a â€œrather typicalâ€? happening in state politics.
Arambula, formerly a member of the Speakerâ€™s leadership team, drew the ire of Nunez by refusing to hop on the bandwagon of a $35-billion four-part public works bond package. Disturbed by a lack of consideration for future dams and other efforts to preserve surface waterâ€”a major issue for Central Valley farmersâ€”Arambula abstained from all four votes in the massive bond measure. He was the only Democrat in the state to shoot 0-for-4 in the Friday vote. Last week, an indignant party leadership stripped the assemblyman of his chairmanship on the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy and sent him packing to the space known as the â€œdoghouse,â€? in Sacramento parlance.
Blakeslee and his staff now enjoy an 807 square foot suite, stocked with a large reception area and a pair of staff rooms. The move constitutes a 106 percent special improvement over his previous officeâ€”a fifth-floor cubbyhole often reserved for politicians out of favor with party leadership. Blakeslee says he landed in the doghouse largely by default. â€œIâ€™d say it was luck of the draw but really, Iâ€™m a coastal Republican, and itâ€™s a convenient place for the controlling party to put people in seats they feel they should own.â€? The local assemblymanâ€™s staff moved to the eighth-floor suit earlier this week and is reportedly elated with the improvement. â€œItâ€™s a welcome respite after a year in that cramped office,â€? Blakeslee says. â€œ[The staff] is all grins and giggles.â€? He says his primary grievance with the doghouse was that people in the waiting area could easily overhear sensitive meetings in the alleged conference room.
Reports released immediately after Arambula received his moving papers suggested the swap with Blakeslee appeared a result of the Republicanâ€™s support of the bond measure. In actuality, Blakeslee voted for just the second smallest of the four pieces of legislationâ€”a $3.1 billion-dollar item that would buttress the stateâ€™s aging levees. âˆ†