Assemblyman Brian Maienschein has been all over the Sacramento Report lately. He had the most bills signed into law among San Diego lawmakers this legislative session, and he’s been the third-most prolific fundraiser in the delegation. These are not things a member of the minority party in the Assembly is supposed to be able to do. Yet, somehow, the rookie Republican lawmaker (and former San Diego city councilman) has pulled it off.

This week, we put Maienschein in the hot seat.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

You’ve achieved a lot during your first term, getting more than 20 bills signed into law, raising a sizable campaign war chest. What’s been your strategy to have this sort of success as a rookie?

Well, I just wanted to go up there and be effective, and get things done. That’s how I’ve looked at my job since I was a City Council member — I wanted to get things done. I didn’t want to go up to Sacramento and sit around and do nothing. And so I reached out, developed good relationships. I think I’m open-minded and hard-working, have common sense. And so I think it paid off this term.

You have a reputation around the capitol as something of a moderate willing to cross party lines. How would you describe your political philosophy or political principles?

I’m independent. I’m not afraid to vote against my party.

What surprised you the most about your first two years in the Legislature?

Wow, good question. I was pleasantly surprised overall. I felt like I was able to get more done than I thought I would. So I’d say that would be my biggest surprise.

You were expecting it to be more challenging or more gridlock?

Yeah, I would say more gridlock. I was expecting more gridlock. With the freshman class that came in I thought that there were people that were there to solve problems.

It certainly is the sense that this freshman class, given that term limits are a little different, is more focused on getting things done rather than the next election.

I think that’s accurate. I really do.

Lawmakers frequently carve out certain policy areas as being their focus or their expertise. What policy areas are you anticipating that you’ll focus on over your term in the Legislature?

That’s a good question. I pride myself on being wide-ranging. So I don’t really anticipate that I’m going to pick out one single issue. I like that I have a broad range of interests. And I think that’s the best way to effectively represent my district. Having said that, you know I do have a particular interest in homelessness and mental health. And so I intend to do something along those lines that is kind of far-reaching, broad impact.

You’ve been in the Legislature now for two years. What do you feel like is the biggest single issue facing the state right now and do you have any thoughts about how to address it?

I’m going to say two. I think education and I think jobs. And I probably have to throw in water, too. I think in terms of jobs, California is becoming increasingly uncompetitive. And while Gov. (Rick) Perry from Texas gets all the publicity for coming here trying to poach companies, he’s really just one of many other governors and leaders of other countries that want to come here and poach out businesses. And so, I think California has to quit relying only on its weather and be realistic as to the level of competition California faces from other states and other countries.

In terms of water, it’s pretty obvious the problem there. You know, we essentially live in a desert, we’re in a drought that could go on for a very long time. And so, I think some steps have been taken, and we’re on a good path, but we’re never not going to live in a desert.

And finally, education, California’s really slipped. We’re having problems at the local levels. But if you look at CSU and the University of California it’s kind of the same thing. It’s getting more expensive to go to schools, getting tougher to get degrees in four years. For California to remain competitive, we need those top-flight universities. So all of those I think are going to be the big challenges certainly not just in the next term but really the next decade.

Quick News Hits

• Supporters of Prop. 1 are hoping that California’s drought helps the water bond initiative. (AP)

• Races in Orange and Ventura counties are critical to Democrats’ hopes of keeping a two-thirds majority in the Assembly. (L.A. Times)

• Opponents of California’s new plastic bag ban already are gathering signatures to overturn it. (Sacramento Bee)

• “Restraint” is the theme of Gov. Jerry Brown’s re-election bid. (AP)

• With the drought persisting, some Southern California cities are trying to become “water independent.” (OC Register)

• San Diego’s water compromise is in danger thanks to a conflict between local and state laws. (VOSD)

• The State Senate has a new leader — Los Angeles’ Kevin de Leon … (L.A. Times)

• … who was “inaugurated” at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, not the state capitol. (AP)

• AG Kamala Harris has started issuing reports she’s required to do under the law. (U-T)

• Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s political career, through the lens of public finance. (The Bond Buyer)

What’s Next?

Voters will approve Prop. 1 with a comfortable margin on Election Day. The win universally will be attributed to the drought.

Brian Joesph is a Voice of San Diego contributor. He has covered the state capitol for more than seven years. You can reach him at

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