Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, whose official bio says she is “recognized for her ability to bring people together,” yesterday ousted San Diego Assemblyman Brian Nestande as Chair of the Republican Caucus. This marks the second member of the already-tiny GOP Caucus to feel her wrath. And while Nestande hasn’t left the Caucus yet, some, such as San Diego Union Tribune capital reporter Mike Gardner, are speculating that he might join fellow San Diego Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher as the second member of the Republican Caucus driven from its ranks by Conway.

What was Nestande’s crime? Supporting legislation by Assembly Speaker John Perez to close a tax loophole for out-of-state corporations and use that revenue to fund scholarships for low- and middle-class kids who want to go to college.

Despite the fact that not a single California company will see its taxes raised nor that it won’t raise the tax of any individual in California, Conway apparently thought that helping the Speaker achieve a meaningful reform was bad for the Republicans.

Remember though that Nestande’s vote wasn’t anything radical. In fact, the California Business Roundtable issued a statement after the vote praising the San Diego Assemblyman for reaching across the aisle to support the Speaker’s bill.

“On behalf of our members, we appreciate Assemblyman Nestande’s leadership and the bi-partisan support that opens the door for continued discussion with members from both parties to develop those critically needed reforms,” said Rob Lapsley, President of the California Business Roundtable. “This is the way the legislative process is supposed to work. If the discussions are successful, we firmly believe there will be additional bi-partisan support from members who will join Assemblyman Nestande in voting for potential reform measures in this session.”

But Conway would have none of that. Her pledge to obstruction apparently even trumps the goals of the Republican business community — which used to be the backbone of the party. Now Conway kowtows to the Tea Party instead.

That may result in the shrinking of the GOP Assembly Caucus even further. According to independent analysts, Conway’s recruiting and fundraising are lagging behind what they should be as well. Which is why thumbing your nose at the business community isn’t such a wise idea a few weeks before election season begins in earnest.
Assembly Republicans would be wise to replace Conway with a principled leader who understands that making the GOP competitive again means having an agenda, embracing bipartisanship when it makes sense, and gets things done. Only then will they give Democrats a run for their money in California.