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Party Crashers: California's 8 Most Independent Legislators

Author: Jeff Powers
Created: 31 October, 2018
Updated: 21 November, 2022
5 min read

San Diego, Calif.- California may be considered a one-party state, but within its chambers are some legislators who don’t take marching orders from either party’s leadership.

And they’re effective.

Below, we take a look at 8 of California’s most independent-minded legislators, and why the Democratic Party is hoping that a “blue wave” crashes on some of their seats:

Blanca Rubio, 48th Assembly District (D)

Looking at Blanca Rubio's voting record, you'd think she wouldn't be in the Dems crosshairs.

100% Planned Parenthood, 100% Equality California and 83% League of Conservation Voters.

But Rubio is a strong independent thinker who has reached out to many conservative groups in her district promising a more collaborative approach in an otherwise divisive political atmosphere. Her high business marks has earned her praise from the Governor’s office where Gov. Brown passed all six of her bills in Rubio’s first year of the Assembly.

Rubio is such an effective legislator, she ran unopposed in the 2018 June primary and will be reelected for another term in the Assembly come November.

Jim Cooper, 9th Assembly District (D)

Democrat Assemblyman Jim Cooper is a former Sacramento County sheriff’s captain who speak his mind and is well-known inside the capital for his willingness to buck his own party.

Cooper has also been a vocal supporter of law enforcement. He took on Governor Jerry Brown and proposition 57, the criminal justice reform bill which passed in 2016. The effort injured Coopers reputation with Democrats.

His voting record also shows a more economically conservative approach. For years Cooper has led a group of business-minded Democrats in Sacramento called the "mods" or "New Democrats." This group supports a more centrist approach to governing.

Tom Daly, 69th Assembly District (D)

Assemblyman Tom Daly is a Democrat serving the cities of Anaheim, Santa Ana, Orange and Garden Grove since 2012. As a candidate for both Mayor and County Clerk, he received a higher vote total than any candidate in history.

Daly is considered a moderate and is the new leader of the "mod squad." Having been mayor of Anaheim, he’s been an advocate for balancing the budget and cutting government bureaucracy. Recently, he authored AB-448, a bill that received unanimous bipartisan support that will create a trust fund to help house homeless in his district.

His voting record shows his commitment to reaching across the aisle.

Adam Gray, 21st Assembly District (D)

Some consider Assemblyman Adam Gray to be one of the states most conservative Democrats and, perhaps, the most fiercely independent. He is an independent thinker and was a former leader of the moderate Democrats.

Having a 41% approval rating from the Republican Assembly, Adam Gray rates near the top of his Democrat colleagues for his willingness to work across the aisle.

As a representative from the Central Valley, farming is a big piece of his district’s economic engine. That’s why Gray has been a champion of protecting water rights and expanding water storage projects to help offset the effects of future droughts.

Chad Mayes, 42nd Assembly District (R)

Assemblyman Chad Mayes was first elected in 2014. He's a conservative Republican who employs a pragmatic, moderate approach to solving constituents needs.

That approach cost him his leadership position in the Assembly. His amicable relationship with Democrats on the cap-and-trade agreement, made him a target from his fellow Republicans and he was removed as leader.

As reported on IVN, Mayes is part of "New Way California." A movement that seeks to put people above political parties to improve the lives of all Californians.

Mayes was one of 26 legislators who voted no to SB-1, the gas tax that has imposed the $5 billion-plus annual windfall.

Brian Maienschein, 77th Assembly District (R)

Assemblyman Brian Maienschein is rated as one of the most independent, moderate Republicans serving the state.

Maienschein has 100% approval marks from Planned Parenthood, 100% from PawPAC – California’s Committee For Animals, “No Legislator has done more for the protection of animals than Brian Maienschein,” and 100% from Equality California.

As CALmatters' Dan Walters told IVN San Diego earlier this week, “Brian has been a terrific moderate, has been willing and demonstrated his ability to go across the aisle and get things done for his constituents,” Walters continued,  “However, Brian is a Republican and the Democrats want the seat for their supermajority.”

Steve Glazer, 7th District (D)

Democrat Senator Steve Glazer doesn't shy away from reaching across the aisle. He is a fiercely independent thinker who relishes the opportunity to find consensus with legislators no matter the party affiliation.

An example of this were the five unprecedented town halls Glazer held with Republican Assemblywoman Catharine Baker.

Glazer's strong business approach and 44% approval from the Republican Assembly shows his desire to find consensus.

His twitter feed reflects his unrelenting independent nature:


Anthony Cannella, 12th Senate District (R)

Whether Democrats achieve a supermajority in the Senate will come down to the 12th district Senate race. A race where moderate Republican Anthony Cannella is termed out.

In showing his pragmatic style, Senator Cannella was the only Republican who voted for Governor Brown's transportation tax plan. He worked with state Senate leader Kevin de León and Governor Brown to secure $500 million for his district including the extension of a Bay Area commuter rail line to Ceres and Merced.

With Cannella termed out, Democrats now have an 18-point registration advantage. Democrats are running Anna Caballero, an attorney and former Assemblymember. Republicans are running Madera County Supervisor and former Madera mayor Rob Poythress.

The race is bringing in big money, as both parties have brought in nearly $6 million to convince voters.