Valley Republicans Jim Patterson and Frank Bigelow headed to Sacramento Wednesday as soon-to-be Assembly members, but they also went north knowing their political party could be marginalized more than ever.
Democrats captured the coveted two-thirds majority in the state Senate, but in a surprise, are also looking at the possibility of doing it in the Assembly. It would be the first time since 1933 that one party held a supermajority in both houses at the same time.
If the results hold, they could have ramifications for the Valley and what both Bigelow and Patterson are able to accomplish in Sacramento. In particular, both men will have to rely on their political skills far more than their political party to push through legislation that will help this region.
"They will still be taken care of, but it is up to them to create friendships and relationships," said Los Angeles-based political analyst Allan Hoffenblum, a longtime Republican strategist and author of the California Target Book, which tracks the state's elections.
Patterson said he intends to do that. He is confident he can find common ground with Democrats on issues that face California.
"We have been elected by people in our district and have positions and views, and we have ideas that have worked in other places and other states and in other circumstances."
But Patterson also sounded the GOP alarm, saying tax rates are "creating serious instability with respect to job creators and frightening regulatory issues."
Bigelow was taking more of a wait-and-see approach.
"I think before I judge or say anything, I need to get up there and get inside the system and start identifying just exactly how we can work on the issues and deal with the Democrats -- especially so we can get this state moving forward."
But on any issues beyond local needs, Hoffenblum said Bigelow, Patterson and most every other Republican will be ignored. Democrats won't even need the GOP's help if a bill that requires a two-thirds majority comes up for a vote.
Linda Halderman, the Republican Assembly member Patterson is replacing, said she had a strategy for being in the minority.
"I lived the last two years by the motto, 'if you can't make them see the light, make them feel the heat,' " she said.
Halderman -- who decided not to seek a second term -- said her job was to represent the views of her constituents, as well as fiscally conservative people across California who didn't have a voice in the Legislature.
Tony Quinn, a political analyst and former GOP legislative aide, said that might not be the best course of action for a Republican.
If any Republican "goes up there and plays partisan, (they) will be marginalized completely."
Even if the Democrats fail to win the two-thirds majority in the Assembly, Quinn said, it won't really matter because there are so few votes that will require a supermajority -- especially since Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, has passed.
To gain the two-thirds Assembly margin, Democrats need challenger Sharon Quirk-Silva to oust incumbent Republican Assembly Member Chris Norby in Orange County.
They also need Democrat Rudy Salas to close out Republican Pedro Rios in the 32nd Assembly District, which includes all of Kings and part of Kern counties.
Democrats have narrow leads in both races.
Both Bigelow and Patterson -- who attended a welcome dinner Wednesday in Sacramento -- said they don't exactly know what to expect, but say all they can do is move forward.
They will be part of a huge Assembly freshman class -- 38 out of 80 positions. They'll also be part of the first class able to serve for 12 years under a new law that modifies term limits.
Because of that, both Patterson and Bigelow are keenly aware that it could be a long and unproductive stay if Republicans remain virtually irrelevant.
"The last thing we can do is chew on each other just because an election went wrong," Patterson said of his fellow Republicans. "We must be unified and an effective voice, even though that voice might be in the wilderness."
Bigelow said the Republican Party needs to re-evaluate itself and take steps to be more relevant.
"Apparently there is some disconnect, and we are going to have to step up to the plate to fix that as a party," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6320, firstname.lastname@example.org or @johnellis24 on Twitter.