Chad Mayes may run for California governor

Former Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes in his San Bernardino County hometown of Yucca Valley.
Former Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes in his San Bernardino County hometown of Yucca Valley.
Ben Adler/Capital Public Radio News

Former Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes, who drew scorn and fury from party activists this summer after negotiating a cap-and-trade deal with Democrats, says he's considering a run for California governor.

"As of right now, I am not running for governor," Mayes told Capital Public Radio Friday afternoon in an interview in his San Bernardino County hometown of Yucca Valley. "But over the last two months, it seems to be a constant refrain of people calling and asking me if I’d consider running."

Moments later, he added: "I’m not going to rule it out."

Mayes says he'll "more than likely" run for re-election to the Assembly, where he plans to lead what he calls a "Relevant Republican Caucus" that will seek "a seat at the table" when big issues come up for negotiation.

Although he stepped down as Assembly Minority Leader earlier this year under pressure from party activists and leadership, Mayes won't be termed out until 2026. His ally, Asm. Brian Dahle (R-Bieber), replaced him.

But if he jumps into the governor's race, Mayes says, it will be with the goal of modernizing a California Republican Party that he describes as being in a "death spiral."

"My brand of politics is to be loving, to be kind, to be compassionate," Mayes says. "I want to be able to let people know in California there are Republicans that care deeply about our values but care deeply about them. And I want to make sure that message gets out."

If he runs, Mayes would count on the backing of business groups and the Republican establishment. But he's sure to draw fierce opposition from conservatives, activists and party leadership.

"Chad is very demonstrably straining for relevance at a time when the state party has said sayonara to him, and so has his own caucus. And he’s out of touch with what Republican activists think in the state," says California Republican National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon, who led the effort on the California GOP Board of Directors to pass a resolution calling on Mayes to resign his leadership post after the cap-and-trade vote.

"Becoming like the Democrats and being Democrat-lite is a recipe for extinction, not a recipe for success," Dhillon said Friday night at the California Republican Party convention in Anaheim — which Mayes is not attending.

There could be further ripple effects as well should Mayes enter the governor's race. USC political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe says a third Republican would make it more likely that two Democrats will advance to the November general election under California's "top two" primary system.

"This does make it easier, in terms of Democrats not having to be worried about splitting the Democratic vote and perhaps a Republican eking out a second-place finish," she says.