If Kristin Olsen wins re-election, she will not only be serving the 12th Assembly District, which includes parts of Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, she will be serving the entire state.
Olsen has been designated the Assembly’s minority leader when the next legislative sessions begins, meaning she will lead the Republican caucus.
How important can that be, you ask, considering that Democrats control most everything in Sacramento? Far more important than you might think.
Gov. Jerry Brown is very likely to win his fourth and final term. The governor has shown that he firmly believes in governing with fiscal restraint, which has angered more members of his Democratic Party than it has Republicans. His battles over spending are more likely to be with Democrats than with Republicans. In fact, when it comes to spending he’s quite likely to find that Republicans could become key allies. And that could give Assemblywoman Olsen some pretty nice leverage.
Olsen doesn’t deny the implications or shy from the possibilities.
“Many people have theorized that (Gov. Jerry Brown) will want to double down on a legacy of putting California in a better financial position than he walked into,” said Olsen. “If that’s the case, he’s going to have to take on some very strong Democratic constituencies – whether it’s unions or environmentalists or whatever. If he pursues that journey, it will create additional factions in the Democratic caucus. ... In regards to health care, pension funding, long-term debt, I believe the governor will have to reach out to Assembly and Senate Republican caucuses to accomplish his goals.”
When he reaches out, Olsen could be standing there with her hand reaching back.
“We have to take these challenges on,” she said. “I’m looking forward to working closely with him, or whoever the governor ends up being, to put California on a much better financial footing.”
Naturally, she insists, Republicans will “continue to hold him accountable to his stated goal of improving California’s financial health.” And that’s a good thing.
As noted in our endorsement of Democrat Adam Gray in the 21st district, Olsen has already forged bonds across the political aisle. In the recent negotiations over bringing a water bond to the ballot, her party affiliation was of less importance than her Valley affiliation. She worked with Democrats Gray and Sen. Cathleen Galgiani and Republican Sens. Anthony Cannella and Tom Berryhill to create a near-unanimous approval of the bond. That’s also where she created a close working relationship with Gov. Brown.
Naturally, to become a party leader you must often cleave to the party line. And that’s where Olsen runs into trouble. While we agreed with her vote to require disclosure of donors to nonprofits, we parted company on many other significant issues. She voted against providing sick pay to part-time employees; against allowing families to request restraining orders on gun possession to keep them out of the hands of mentally disturbed people; against repealing the ban on bilingual education; against requiring fluorescent colors for replica guns. Some of those bills were worthy of her support.
Harinder Grewal, Olsen’s opponent, says he can do more for the district as a member of the majority party. His says communication, leadership and consensus-building are his strengths – but those are exactly what Olsen brings to the table, and more. We appreciate, though, that Grewal is running an entirely civil campaign.
Olsen, who will be termed out in 2016, has worked hard to put herself in position to have a significant impact on the district and state over the next two years. Voters must give her the chance by returning her to the Assembly.