Sam Blakeslee steps down as GOP leader

Sam Blakeslee ended his eight-month tenure as Assembly Minority Leader on Tuesday as his fellow Republicans chose Assemblyman Martin Garrick of Carlsbad to head their caucus.

Blakeslee, who is from San Luis Obispo, congratulated Garrick, who has been his assistant minority leader and promised to work closely with him on the transition.

Blakeslee did not give a reason for stepping down, but his term ends at the end of this year, and he is widely considered to be preparing for a run at the state Senate, which would not allow him time to work as minority leader.

Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, has been nominated for lieutenant governor, and the Legislature must act on the nomination in February.

Blakeslee is almost certain to run for Maldonado’s state Senate seat, which covers the Central Coast’s 15th District.

Blakeslee led his party at a time when the Legislature was vastly unpopular among the public, in large part because the Republican and Democratic parties would not work well together.

He inherited a $24 million budget deficit when he became minority leader in June and leaves one roughly the same size.

Blakeslee was unavailable for an interview.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrat Assembly Speaker Karen Bass praised Blakeslee for his bipartisanship. Bass herself is being replaced, by John Perez of Los Angeles.