Earlier this week State Senators J.B. Jennings and Steve Hershey announced that they were leaving their leadership posts in the General Assembly.
Reasons have been floated as to why both are leaving. Jennings has been criticized for leading six Republican Senators in voting for the Kirwan Commission plan. Hershey has been internally criticized by fellow Republican Senators for paying a left-wing journalist to work on his social media platforms.
Republicans outside of the General Assembly have criticized both Jennings and Hershey for being too friendly with Democrats in the State Senate. That criticism is unfair. While criticism of their voting record is valid (particularly when it comes to Jennings support of Kirwan), there is no reason to be mad that Republican legislators are polite to the other side. This isn’t bloodsport.
State Senator Bryan Simonaire is the only Senator that I am aware of that has expressed an interest in serving as the Senate Republican leader. Unfortunately, Bryan Simoanire is the wrong choice to lead the Republican caucus.
Simonaire is my State Senator, and he was first elected to the State Senate in 2006. He promised to serve two terms and then leave the Senate. He is currently serving his fourth term and plans to run for a fifth in 2022.
During his tenure, Simonaire has pushed no significant conservative pieces of legislation. He has not been a leader on conservative causes.
In truth, Simonaire has become a walking publicity stunt, more committed to getting his name in the paper than serving the people of District 31. This, of course, reached its apotheosis through Bryan Simonaire’s brazen and crass exploitation of suicides by veterans. But he’s also passed a bunch of other meaningless legislation, legislation that will get his name in the paper (see exhibit A and exhibit B among others). He’s certainly more interested in chasing headlines than defending his conservatism, and that’s before we ever get to his support of junk science bills like this one.
Simonaire has taken some pretty bad votes himself. He was one of four Republican State Senators to vote for a bid that would have allowed meddling in state elections by Russian and other foreign actors. It is an unforgivable vote.
It’s not like Simonaire is beloved in his district, either. A Pasadena business owner and conservative activist told me of Simonaire, “A ham sandwich has more integrity. And is more visible in the community.”
Bryan Simonaire is exactly the kind of Republican leader Democratic Senators want to see; a career politician obsessed with retaining the trappings of his office who never pushes conservative issues and legislation to the forefront and is more concerned about getting positive press coverage than he is about being a leader.
Why would Republicans want somebody like that being their leader in the State Senate?
Republicans in the State Senate would serve themselves well by electing a leader who not only talks the talk about fighting for conservative values but actually walks the walk. And that person is not Bryan Simonaire.