SACRAMENTO — Chad Mayes, a former Yucca Valley mayor who has been serving in the state Assembly since 2014, left the Republican Party this week.
Mayes re-registered without party preference, and will run for re-election to represent the 42nd District in 2020 as a political independent.
“Really simply: It’s because of my frustration with the way our political system is working today,” Mayes said in a tweet Friday. “The political discord in the country is tearing us apart. Unfortunately, all politics is no longer local. It’s national.”
The Yucca Valley resident has been encouraging his fellow Republicans to move away from rigid partisanship. Last year, with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s support, he founded New Way California, an organization pushing for bipartisanship and a more inclusive Republican Party.
“It’s frustrating to watch Republicans defend whatever it is the president does. It’s also frustrating to watch Democrats attack virtually everything the president does, instead of thinking, ‘Is this a good policy or not a good policy?’” Mayes told CALMatters, a nonprofit journalism outlet that covers the Capitol, in a story published Thursday.
“At some point you go, ‘It doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to keep banging my head against the wall,’” Mayes told the outlet.
The California Republican Party, which endorsed Mayes just weeks ago, condemned his exit.
“Chad has let the Republican Party down just as he let down the voters of California,” the board of directors said in a released statement.
Mayes re-registered without party preference the day before the deadline to file papers to run in the election. Republican Party leaders found at least one man to file to run against him Friday: San Jacinto Mayor Andrew Kotuyk. He lost to Mayes in the 2018 election, when both ran as Republicans.
Mayes is part of a trend of Californians registering without party preference. When he was first elected in 2014, Republicans had a 7-point advantage over Democrats in the 42nd District, which includes the Morongo Basin and Palm Springs.
Today, each party has 35 percent of registered voters in the district.
Locking horns over pollution
Mayes was the Republican Caucus leader in 2016-17, but GOP groups pressured him to step down after he voted to extend California’s cap and trade program through 2030.
Mayes pointed out that if cap and trade didn’t pass, California would automatically revert to a stricter policy. Mayes said his vote protected California workers from job losses and higher taxes that the stricter policy would have caused. But Republican leaders and rank and file still opposed his vote, and even his hometown Morongo Basin Republicans called for him to step down.
Some said climate change is a hoax. Others argued that if people lost jobs and had to pay higher gas taxes, more Californians might vote Republican in the next election.
“I’m not sure if that would work, but if it is true, you have to think about the moral side of that,” Mayes told the Hi-Desert Star after stepping down from the leadership role. “To think people are going to be suffering so you can win elections? That’s not right to me.”
Mayes has also been critical of President Donald Trump. When Trump urged congresswomen of different ethnicities to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Mayes called those words “wrong and abhorrent.”
“Dear fellow Republicans, we must speak out and return ourselves to decency. This cannot be who we are,” the Assemblyman tweeted.
After more rhetoric from the president, Mayes said he planned to ask the California Republican Party to commit to “universal human rights.”
“Republicans must come together to reject racism, xenophobia, ethnic nationalism and white supremacy,” Mayes tweeted. “The belief that one group of people is superior to another is fundamentally un-American.”
Mayes is the second Republican assemblyman to quit the GOP in 2019. Brian Maienschein, from San Diego, filed as a Democrat in January.
Republicans now have just 18 members out of the 80 Californians in the Assembly.