Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, has led the Senate Republican Caucus for six weeks. He met with The Signal Monday to discuss the changes he’s initiated during that time to make Senate Republicans relevant in Sacramento.
Wilk has set his sights on Senate Republicans’ caucus structure – established more than 30 years ago when Republicans held the governor’s chair.
“None of that’s relevant,” he said, citing a Democratic supermajority in both chambers of the state house. “We have policy staff, budget staff, communications. And to me the policy staff and budget staff — it’s not relevant, because we’re not relevant.”
“Redoing” the caucus’ communications program is part of Wilk’s plan.
“I think what we communicate outside of the building is more important than anything we do in the building,” he said, adding that Republicans “are going to try to force ourselves in terms of policy.”
Redistricting political boundaries — a process that takes place every 10 years — is an opportunity to “flip the script” to regain policy relevance, according to Wilk.
Wilk told The Signal that Republicans have been more active in the redistricting process in 2021 than they were in 2011. The redistricting process is overseen by an independent citizens commission first established in 2008.
“I think you’re going to see more fidelity to the Federal Voting Rights (Act) and state Voting Rights Act than with the commission 10 years ago because there’s three academics on there,” he added, also noting Republican engagement with the commissioner selection process and defining communities of interest.
The California Constitution defines a community of interest as “a contiguous population which shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single district for purposes of its effective and fair representation.” The state Constitution also states that “communities of interest shall not include relationships with political parties, incumbents, or political candidates.”
Wilk is motivated to grow the number of Republicans in the state Senate, where he’s previously served with 14 and 11 Republican members during his four years in that chamber.
“In the history of California, the fewest seats the Republicans have held in the Senate is eight. Right now, we’re at nine,” Wilk said, noting that historical low was in 1883. “I’m feeling pressure. I want to be the guy who brings it up.”
Gubernatorial recall election
Wilk was certain in his prediction that the election to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom will qualify for the state ballot.
“I think he’s fully capable of messing this up,” Wilk said of Newsom’s handling of a recall election. “This is live theater and you never know.”
“I’m not a fan of (Gov. Newsom), not because he’s left and I’m center-right. I’m not a fan of his because I think he lacks maturity,” Wilk added, contrasting him with former Gov. Jerry Brown. “I think he’s narcissistic, and I just don’t think he has an interest in governing.”
Wilk has announced his support for former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer for the regularly scheduled gubernatorial election in 2022.
On his record
Wilk, who is ineligible to run for a seat in the state Legislature in 2024 due to term limits, reflected on his time in Sacramento.
“Looking back at my time up there, I’ve really enjoyed it and I’ve done some things where I delivered for the district,” Wilk said, sharing several examples. Among those examples were creating the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency and bringing “new transparency” to the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District.
He also mentioned his principal role in establishing the California Film Tax Credit, which Wilk stated has been “wildly successful.”
Wilk added to his list of accomplishments an audit of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, additional funding for the trauma center at Antelope Valley Hospital and an aerospace tax credit, “which allowed Northrop Grumman to build the long-range bomber, which is a $65 billion contract in Palmdale.”
Current Legislative Efforts
Despite Wilk’s new leadership role, lawmaking continues to be an important part of his job.
This legislative session, Wilk has tackled fraud in state unemployment claims. Senate Bill 58 would prohibit the Employment Development Department, which administers unemployment claims in California, from including full Social Security numbers on correspondence by Oct. 1.
Wilk also authored Senate Bill 520, a bill that “would provide the public a second opportunity to weigh in on large projects approved more than 30 years ago, such as the Cemex project in Soledad Canyon, before those projects could move forward,” according to a prepared statement from Wilk’s office.
Both bills are headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee next month.