Chad Mayes not seeking reelection to Assembly. Will he run for Congress?
Assemblymember Chad Mayes, who has represented a portion of the Coachella Valley since 2014 and is the only independent in the California Legislature, said Monday that he will not be seeking re-election to the state Assembly later this year — but he is considering a run for Congress.
"I love our state and I love this Country," Mayes said in a tweet Monday morning. "Public policy is in my blood and I’m certainly not done serving. But the time has come for me to move on to the next chapter beyond the state legislature."
Mayes was first elected to the California Legislature as a Republican in 2014, eventually rising to be the leader of the GOP caucus in the state Assembly.
However, his Republican colleagues in the Assembly ousted him as party leader in 2017 after he rallied fellow party members to vote with Democrats and extend California's carbon emissions trading program.
Mayes ran as an independent candidate in 2020, defeating his GOP challenger by double digits to win re-election to Sacramento. An outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump, and the broader direction of the GOP, Mayes mentioned the changes in politics he's experienced in his Monday announcement.
"Over the last 7 years, I have seen first-hand the dangers of partisan politics," Mayes said. "Blind faith to political teams has created a toxic tribalism that is tearing families, friendships, communities and this country apart."
Mayes could challenge Calvert in congressional race
While his time in the California Assembly soon will come to an end, Mayes indicated he doesn't plan to fully step away from the public sphere, leaving the door open to pursue other political opportunities.
Mayes told The Desert Sun that he’s considering a challenge of U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, who is seeking re-election in a newly drawn district that includes Palm Springs and other Coachella Valley cities.
“I'm not ruling it out, but I'm not ruling it in,” Mayes said Monday. “I haven't come to a conclusion about that particular congressional seat, and I don't know, frankly, if running for Congress would be the best course to be able to have an impact on trying to unify.”
Mayes noted there are only two independents in Washington — both of whom caucus with Senate Democrats — and said the lack of any “true” independents at the federal level is “part of the problem.”
“When I think about my next step, it's how can I best be used? How can I best further the cause of trying to unify the country? Is running for Congress the best way to do that? I don't know,” Mayes said.
“I've got a baby that has been born, and I'm now focusing my energy there,” Mayes added. “I'll think over the next couple of weeks … and then we'll kind of go from there.”
With California's filing deadline upcoming in March, other candidates soon could emerge to run against Calvert, who will be seeking his 16th term in Congress.
Richard Grenell, a part-time Coachella Valley resident and former ambassador to Germany under the Trump administration, said Monday that he and many others are encouraging state Sen. Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, who won't seek re-election this year due to term limits, to run for the congressional seat.
"We need Melissa. And I'm all in for her if she decides to run," Grenell said in a tweet, calling her a "MAGA patriot."
A representative for Melendez, who has also set up an exploratory campaign account for a possible run for lieutenant governor, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Desert Sun.
Mayes’ decision opens up race for Palm Springs’ Assembly district
Mayes, a Rancho Mirage resident who represents California's 42nd Assembly District, would have been running in a newly drawn district, approved by California's redistricting commission in December, had he decided to run for re-election.
That new district — Assembly District 47 — includes Palm Springs, Palm Desert and other west valley cities, along with Beaumont, Banning and Yucca Valley.
Mayes, who served on the Yucca Valley City Council for several years before running for the state Legislature, said there was “no question” that he could’ve won re-election to another term in the new district, but he and other members of the Legislature felt it is time for a new wave in Sacramento.
He joins a growing list of California lawmakers who have announced they won’t be seeking another term in Sacramento. In total, 15 legislators have said they either won’t seek re-election this year or plan to retire mid-term, according to a tracker from CalMatters.
Mayes said some of his colleagues have used the term “senioritis” to describe the feeling among some of the more tenured lawmakers, explaining how “you get to a place where you don't have that list any longer of all the things that you want to get accomplished.”
“I think there was a bunch of us that were sort of feeling like this has been been great to be able to serve, (and) we've learned a lot and sort of grown together,” Mayes said. “But at some points, I’m for new energy, new ideas and new blood.”
While the Assembly race will lack an incumbent candidate, at least one well-known local official has already entered the race, as Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege announced her intention to run for the seat as a Democrat in July.
"I want to thank Assemblymember Chad Mayes for his service to our community during his tenure in the California State Assembly," Holstege said in a statement. "I look forward to building upon our important work we've achieved on City Council for residents of the 47th Assembly District and California."
With more candidates likely to enter the fray following his announcement, Mayes said he’s not ready to offer any endorsements in the race, though he added Holstege has served Palm Springs “quite well.”
“At this point, we're going to wait to see who all decides to jump in, and then, we'll kind of go from there," Mayes said.
Until his term in office runs out, Mayes said he plans to continue working for his district in the Legislature, mentioning a $100 million request for Cal State San Bernardino’s Palm Desert campus as something he’ll advocate for this year.
“I'm going to continue to keep pushing on that while we've got some surplus to try to make that make that happen,” Mayes said. “We're going to push until the very end, and we'll wait to see what our efforts bring forth.”
Tom Coulter covers politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tomcoulter_.