Newly elected to the State Assembly, Monique Limón was appointed this week to be Assistant Majority Whip, part of the house’s leadership team. Limón, 37, a former Santa Barbara school board member, won 64 percent of the vote in the race to represent the 37th Assembly District, which stretches from Buellton to Fillmore. She succeeds Das Williams, who was elected to the Board of Supervisors.
“It is a really neat place since I am coming in as a freshman,” Limón said of the appointment by Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon, who is 48. The Assistant Majority Whip is expected to corral members to vote in line with the party. Limón explained the job entails mobilizing members around major issues, but exactly what those are depends on the year. Legislators have until February 17 to introduce new legislation. “If anything, I’ll have the ability to work with the leadership team to be a bigger voice,” she said. “It is a big deal. I am truly honored to serve in that capacity.”
Limón said she got to know the Speaker, whose district is in Los Angeles, over the past two years, and he greatly supported her campaign, attending a fund-raising event in Santa Barbara in early October. (In total, Limón brought in about $342,000, according to state records; she still has $252,000 left.) At the swearing-in ceremony on December 5, Limón was one of just three assemblymembers to second Rendon’s nomination for Speaker and the only freshman who spoke that day.
The burning question in state politics remains the same as it was on Election Day: How could a Donald Trump administration affect California laws? “We don’t want anyone to catch us unprepared,” Limón said. “We will closely follow what is happening at the national level.”
In his first move as Speaker, Rendon put forward a resolution — AB 4 — to protect all vulnerable communities against any potential threats presented by the coming administration. Limón, who supported the resolution, explained some people have asked her why state legislators felt compelled to act so quickly as Trump has not even been sworn into office yet. “We are acting on direct quotes,” she said. “We’ve been given something to consider. The state wants to be vigilant and prepared.
“We’ve always cared about what has happened at the federal level,” she added. “We work very closely with the federal government. … It doesn’t mean that California agrees with everything that the Obama administration did … you still have folks on the same side of the aisle who have disagreements.” Even though Democrats now make up two-thirds of both houses, Limón reasoned, “on some issues you can get them to vote the same way, but not on all of them.”
When asked, Limón was quick not to confine herself to a bloc within the Democratic Party. She noted, though, that moderate Democrats have opposed efforts to strengthen environmental policies. “That, to me, is really a priority of the district,” she said.
The resolution to protect immigrant communities essentially asked President-elect Trump not to carry out his proposed mass deportation plan, but it did not specify actions or funding amounts. But the move turned out to be controversial, leading Limón to wonder, “Gosh. Is this a taste of what the year is going to be like?” However, Limón said, “The fact that not all Republicans voted against it says something.”
Two weeks ago, Limón asked Santa Barbara Unified’s school board, which she served on for six years before stepping down to go to Sacramento, to adopt a similar resolution. “I really stress there is meaning behind them,” she said, even though many things remain unknown. “Schools are schools … not this place that people fear going to.”
Students and families with diverse backgrounds had asked her to do something, she said. Limón, who grew up here, comes from a big and accomplished Santa Barbara family. In January, Limón plans to speak with students worried that the threat of deportation could separate them from family members, assuring them she will “do anything we can.”
This week, committee appointments in the Legislature should be announced. “Everyone is expecting that I’ll do Education,” she said. “I have also expressed interest in thinking a little more broadly” such as Economic Development.