Riding a wave of activism in state politics, nearly two dozen Assembly Democrats have formed a progressive caucus to prop up the party's left flank in the Legislature.
The formation of the group, which held a private audience with hip-hop star Common during last weekend's California Democratic Party convention, speaks to the ideological fissures that exist within the Democratic supermajority in the Capitol.
Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), who chairs the group, said several members have contemplated a formal caucus for years.
"We all have the same ideology, which is basically that we value people more than money," Jones-Sawyer said. "We noticed our voting patterns were very, very similar, but we had never met."
"It's good for us to know where everyone is, and hopefully we can help each other push a more progressive agenda," he added.
The caucus hopes to be a counterweight to the informal group of centrist, business-aligned Democrats that has been a pivotal bloc of votes on bills on taxes and environmental regulation.
But unlike the so-called Mod caucus — for moderate Democrats — the progressive group has made its membership public. Twenty-two Assembly Democrats have signed on to the group's roster.
Jones-Sawyer said taking on mass incarceration, climate change, women's and civil rights, and immigration issues are among the group's top priorities.
With a newly energized cadre of progressive activists turning their attention to state politics, Jones-Sawyer said the caucus' existence would help identify which legislators are allied with that grass-roots movement.
"We've done quite a bit of progressive legislation, but some people don't believe we're progressive," Jones-Sawyer said. "In fact, a lot of times people have called us 'establishment,' and we're wondering, 'Have you seen my voting record?'"
The caucus has not yet decided if it will designate priority legislation or other trappings of traditional caucuses, such as the women's or Latino caucuses. But the members are planning to band together in one key way to boost their influence: fundraising as a group.