Rancho Santa Fe Assemblyman Switches from Republican to Democrat

January 26, 2019 by Dan Weisman
Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, center, receives applause from Democratic Assembly members after announcing he was switching party registration from Republican to Democrat, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019, in Sacramento, Calif./CW San Diego screenshot

If you can’t beat them, join them.

State Assemblyman Brian Maienschein went from red to blue Thursday, Jan. 24.

Maienschein announced at the State Capitol in Sacramento a switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, saying he had “shifted to the left” on key issues in recent years, specifically citing gun control, immigration, abortion and LGBTQ rights.

The old switcheroo changed the state Assembly composition to a supermajority 61 Democrats and 19 Republicans. The Senate is composed of 29 Democrats and 11 Republicans.

“Leaving the Republican party is not easy,” Maienschein said. “I can either keep fighting to change the Republican party, or I can fight for my constituents. I choose to use my energy and my skills to fight for the people that I represent.”

Maienschein squeaked by last November in the 77th State Assembly District, which stretches north of the city of San Diego to include Poway and Rancho Santa Fe. He edged Democrat Sunday Gover by just over 670 votes with 198,770 votes counted in the district.

Valley Center’s Marie Waldron, who also is the state Assembly Republican Leader called Maienschein “a turncoat,” saying, “It’s unfortunate that Brian’s takeaway from his extremely close reelection was that his political future depended on becoming a turncoat. Unfortunately some people run for office simply because they want a job, regardless of political philosophy.”

Maienschein, 49, was first elected in the 77th district in 2012 when Republicans held an 8-percentage-point lead among registered voters. By last year’s election, Democrats were a razor-thin plurality. He had served on the San Diego City Council for eight years, before his time in the Assembly. He has also worked for the United Way of San Diego on homelessness issues in the city.

At the brief, and unexpected, news conference, Democrat Assembly members Todd Gloria of San Diego, Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher of San Diego, Tom Daly of Anaheim and about 15 other Assembly members, accompanied Maienschein.

“Donald Trump has led the Republican Party to the extreme on issues that divide our country,” Maienschein said. “But his leadership is not the only reason for my change in party affiliation. I, too, have changed.”

Maienschein called Trump’s conduct “offensive,” “immature” and “counterproductive” adding, “at some point I have to take a stand… and say that this isn’t somebody I can continue seeing as a leader of a party I belong to.”

Maienschein continued: “It’s been something that’s been happening over the course of a really long time…There wasn’t a way that I could continue and feel good about myself and the choices I was making to continue as a member of the Republican Party. And it was time for me to make a change.”


Legislative staff told the San Diego Union Tribune that Maienschein was the fifth member of the Assembly to change parties while in office since 1995. It also was not the first time the San Diego region has seen one of its Assembly members changed political party stripes.

Maienschein represents some of the same communities as did Nathan Fletcher, a former Republican who became an independent in 2012 and later a Democrat. Fletcher was elected to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in November.

While Waldron bad-mouthed Maienschein, others in the Assmebly sang his praises for having the courage to do the right thing.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said Maienschein’s views are consistent with a majority of Californians on a number of key issues.

Rendon said Maienschein had always expressed values of caring, values of sharing. And those are values that are Democratic values.

Rancho Santa Fe 77th District Assemblyman Brian Maienschein joined the parade of politicians switching from Republican to Democrat due to Donald Trump and changes in GOP policy stands/File

Assemblyman Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley), a former GOP leader in the chamber who last year launched a political action committee to elect more centrist Republicans, wrote on Twitter that he was not surprised by the decision.

“He’s a great legislator that represents his district well,” Mayes wrote. “I’m sure this decision did not come easy for him. He didn’t leave the Republican Party, the party left him.

The assemblyman’s switch is the latest sign that the style of Republican politics emanating from the White House does not play well on the left coast. Last month, California saw another high-profile GOP defection when Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, said she had re-registered without party affiliation following the tumultuous confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court.

It also bolsters Democratic dominance in the state Capitol to epic proportions, giving them more than 76 percent of the seats in the Assembly. That’s far more than the two-thirds needed to pass tax increases and put constitutional amendments on the ballot, and means Democrats can theoretically pass supermajority bills even if they don’t all agree.

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