South Bay politician poised to become State Assembly speaker
Assemblymember Robert Rivas is expected to serve as the next speaker of the California State Assembly. Photo courtesy of the office of Robert Rivas.

A progressive South Bay legislator is poised to become the next speaker of the State Assembly, marking the first time this powerful position has been held by a politician from a rural district.

Assemblymember Robert Rivas announced Friday he’s secured enough votes from the Democratic Caucus to become the Assembly’s next speaker. The speaker is a powerful figure in the Legislature, appointing chairpersons and members of various committees where bills are heard, and managing the day-to-day activities on the Assembly floor.

Rivas represents the 30th Assembly District, which includes Gilroy and Morgan Hill, as well as parts of San Benito, Monterey and Santa Clara counties. According to a statement from his office, Rivas will be the first representative of a rural district to become speaker in modern history.

“I am honored to have earned the support and confidence of my colleagues across the state, from the Mexico border to the Oregon border,” Rivas said in a statement. “I look forward to the progress we will make together to alleviate our affordability crisis, protect our environment and ensure that California remains a land of opportunity for every resident.”

Rivas, who was raised in a farmworker household in San Benito County, was elected to the Assembly in 2018 and has served two terms. He presided as chair of the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee and was elected vice chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus.

In his two terms, Rivas has pushed for legislation to help protect farmworkers from COVID-19 and helped win passage of the COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package. He also helped pass the $89 million Golden State Teacher Grant Program, which compensates teachers in underserved schools. He has helped organize food drives for farmers in Watsonville.

Gilroy Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz told San José Spotlight she appreciates Rivas’ track record as a leader over his past two terms.

“He’s always present, he knows the issues that are most important to us,” Armendariz said, adding that having a speaker from the South Bay would help bring the region to the forefront of state politics. “A lot of times we get overshadowed by San Francisco and Los Angeles, and it would be great to have somebody representing our area finally in that seat.”

Chava Bustamante, former executive director of Latinos United for a New America, told San José Spotlight he’s only briefly met with Rivas, but appreciates his progressive track record.

“Having a speaker that has progressive views, and who understands the importance of farm workers and working people in general, I think it’s good,” Bustamante said.

Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter. 

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