Jim Patterson was sworn in Monday as Fresno County's newest Assembly member, but the honor came weeks after he made his first deal in the state Capitol.
The former Fresno mayor was in Sacramento last month for orientation and stopped by to see Assembly Speaker John Pérez.
While there, Patterson, a Fresno Republican, mentioned to Pérez, a Los Angeles Democrat, that Clovis Community Medical Center had been struggling for months to get a state inspection for part of its $300 million expansion project.
Pérez got on the phone and within hours the inspection had been scheduled.
For Patterson and another Valley Assembly newcomer, Frank Bigelow of O'Neals, the question is: will that kind of leverage be a trend, or an anomaly?
Both men are Republicans, outnumbered by Democrats in the Assembly by more than 2-to-1.
But they're also part of a huge freshman class that filled 38 of the 80 seats Monday. These new members, including Bakersfield Democrat Rudy Salas, are the first class who have new rules that allow them to serve up to 12 years in the Assembly, instead of the old rule of six years.
"They will be able to get to know each other very well," 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.
Hoffenblum expects the freshmen to flex their political muscle. He expects one to succeed Pérez as speaker in two years -- and likely hold the post for a decade.
Others could assume chairmanships of important committees, if not now, then as sophomores. Already on Monday, Pérez named Salas to chair two select committees, one on workforce and vocational development and the other looking at regional approaches to addressing the state's "water crisis."
Salas, 35, represents part of Kern County and all of Kings County.
Patterson, 64, and Bigelow, 58, also could look to leadership positions among their fellow Assembly Republicans, though it is unclear how much power they will actually wield.
Bigelow, though, was named to the powerful Rules Committee, which essentially handles the business of running the Assembly.
Hoffenblum said it is unknown how political power will break out for Assembly members such as Fresno Democrat Henry T. Perea who are serving under the old rules and must leave after six years.
Perea, who was appointed to chair the Assembly Insurance Committee, said he is looking forward to the session and the influx of new members.
"It will be interesting to see how the coalitions forge," he said. "It's a huge freshman class with a lot of new blood. I think new blood is healthy for the organization."
Perea, 35, said his second-term priorities are clean drinking water, clean air and securing more money for Valley counties to implement Gov. Jerry Brown's prison realignment, which has counties overseeing low-level inmates and parolees, duties once handled by the state.
Already, he is concerned about Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's plan to reopen the state's water bond. Perea wants money for storage -- such as new reservoirs -- to stay, and he would like money for clean-water projects for impoverished communities to be added.
If projects that benefit the Valley are threatened, Perea said he is prepared to marshal support from not only Valley Democrats, but Republicans as well, to keep the projects intact in the bond.
The central San Joaquin Valley's other Assembly member is Connie Conway of Tulare, who is beginning her third and final term and retained her seat as Assembly Republican leader.