Central Coast Sen. Sam Blakeslee’s predicament is about as dicey as life in the capital gets. As one of five GOP senators meeting in secret with Gov. Jerry Brown, his vote could make or break the Democratic governor’s plan to rescue the deficit-plagued state budget.
As budget talks dragged on this week, many political analysts wondered: Is the 55-year-old Blakeslee a man of conscience wrestling with his next move or a politician toying with a needy governor?
"His statements are so vague that it’s not clear to me whether he really is some sort of open-minded, let’s-just-do-what’s-best-for-the-state kind of politician," or if he’s simply enjoying a fling with power, said Melissa Michelson, a political science professor at Menlo College. "And because it’s behind closed doors, you have no idea what they’re doing."
In the first one-on-one media interview with a member of the so-called GOP 5, Blakeslee on Friday said political calculations are far from his thoughts.
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"My behaviors recently in working on these issues clearly are creating great political peril and likely problems in the future," Blakeslee said after emerging from 4 1/2 -hour budget talks. "They are not the actions one would take if his top priority was being in a position to win a 2012 campaign. Why should I worry about the electoral issues when this may be the last chance for me to fix California for the rest of my life?"
He described the ongoing talks as "grueling" and "intense" — and far from over.
Brown’s budget relies on deep cuts to social services and revenue increases from extending temporary sales and income taxes and car fees. He needs voter approval for the plan, but first he needs four Republican lawmakers to agree to place the tax extensions on the June ballot.
If Blakeslee signs on with the governor, he bucks his virulently anti-tax party. If he rejects the plan, he could alienate voters in his Democratic-leaning district spanning five counties from Santa Clara to Santa Barbara.