California GOP lawmakers boycott after Republican booted for ‘pedophile protector’ comment

California Republican lawmakers showed solidarity Tuesday with their GOP colleague who was removed from a legislative committee after he called one of his Democratic colleagues a “pedophile protector” on social media.

Tuesday marked the first meeting of the Assembly Judiciary Committee since Speaker Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, removed Assemblyman Bill Essayli, R-Corona, from the committee, and all three Republican committee members were absent from the hearing, as part of a boycott organized by Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher, R-Yuba City.

Those boycotting the hearing were Vice Chair Diane Dixon, R-Newport Beach; Assemblywoman Kate Sanchez, R-Rancho Santa Margarita, and Assemblyman Joe Patterson, R-Rocklin, who was recently appointed to replace Essayli on the committee.

Reached for comment, Gallagher released a statement to The Bee saying, “I’m glad people noticed and acknowledge that a healthy democracy requires representation from all sides of the political spectrum.”

Essayli, through a spokesman, told The Bee that the Founding Fathers “understood the threat to a healthy democracy posed by the tyranny of the majority.”

He said minority rights exist to make sure diverse constituencies are represented in the legislative process.

“Democrats in Sacramento repeatedly demonstrate they despise opposing views — they would rather lock up their political opponents and remove them from committees than engage in debate,” he said.

Neither Rivas nor Committee Chair Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, responded to The Bee’s request for comment by deadline. But not all Democrats were silent.

Assemblyman Alex Lee, D-San Jose, wrote in a post on X, “Wow! It’d be an incredible show of solidarity if all the Republicans continued to boycott and not show up for work until the end of session. Then we’d really hear your point. Keep up the boycott!!”

Rivas removed Essayli from the Assembly Judiciary Committee last week, in response to remarks Essayli made online about his Democratic colleagues, at one point calling one Democratic lawmaker a “pedophile protector” in a post on X.

Essayli’s remarks stemmed from the Democratic supermajority blocking his attempt to force a vote on his bill to strip sanctuary state protections from people found guilty of committing sex crimes against a minor.

Lobbyist and adjunct professor at the McGeorge School of Law Chris Micheli, a longtime watcher of California state politics, said Rivas’ decision to remove Essayli from a committee (for the second time in one session) was unusual but not unheard of.

“It doesn’t happen regularly, but it’s not without precedent,” he said.

Micheli said that Assembly rules give the speaker the sole authority to decide who sits on that legislative house’s committees.

While Tuesday’s boycott led to a delay in the committee hearing getting started, Micheli noted that the California GOP does not have enough seats in the Assembly to deny a quorum that would prevent the meeting from proceeding. Democrats have more than enough seats to ensure that business continues, Micheli said.

This story has been updated to clarify remarks from Chris Micheli about Essayli being removed from the committee.