(CaBlackMedia.org)—Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas abruptly announced his resignation from the California Legislature on Wednesday, citing health reasons.
Ridley-Thomas, a Democrat from Los Angeles, informed Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) Tuesday night.
“The reason for this difficult decision is that I am facing persistent health issues,” Ridley-Thomas, 30, said in a written statement on Wednesday. “On December 18th, I underwent surgery for the fifth time this year. Although I expect a full recovery, my physicians advise that I will need an extended period of time to recuperate.”
Earlier this year, Ridley-Thomas was absent from work for more than two weeks. Staff members initially said the absence was a personal leave, then said the time off was due to unspecified medical reasons. His resignation letter on Wednesday offered no additional details.
“When I resume public life, I intend to remain active in civic affairs, where my passion lies,” he said in the statement released by his office.
Ridley-Thomas was first elected to the Assembly in a 2013 special election. He is the son of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Before winning elected office at age 26, the younger Ridley-Thomas worked as an aide for Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price and managed a 2012 Assembly campaign in San Bernardino County.
“Our family is dedicated to public service, and Avis and I are extremely proud of how our son, Sebastian, has represented California’s 54th State Assembly District and served as a role model for the greater African American community and his generation,” said the elder Ridley-Thomas in a statement.
“Yet we, more than anyone, have seen him struggle with health challenges this year, and we fully support his decision to step down from the state Legislature so that he can recuperate with complete rest, in accordance with his doctor’s orders.”
His solidly Democratic district includes the west Los Angeles neighborhoods of Westwood, Culver City, Crenshaw and Baldwin Hills. He is chairman of the influential Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee, which oversees all tax-related legislation. Ridley-Thomas is a proponent of changes in the operation of the state Board of Equalization, though his plan would have allowed the agency to ultimately retain many of its duties. A more substantial shake-up was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in June.
Ridley-Thomas was the author of a bill signed into law in October giving the Los Angeles Unified School District the power to preserve some of its existing single-gender schools. He was unsuccessful, though, in an effort to stop local governments from imposing taxes on streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu.
Ridley-Thomas’ departure will require a special election in 2018. He is the fourth Southern California legislator to leave office this year. The election of Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) to Congress also required a special election. The other two lawmakers— Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) and Matt Dababneh (D-Woodland Hills) — stepped down in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct, which both men have denied. A special election to fill Bocanegra’s seat will be held on April 3, with a potential runoff on June 5. A special election date has not yet been set for Dababneh’s seat.
“My colleagues and I wish Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas all the best going forward as he deals with his health challenges,” Rendon said in a statement. “The Assembly will continue to assist the residents of the 54th Assembly District until a new assemblymember is seated.”
“We wish Assemblymember Ridley-Thomas a speedy and successful recovery moving forward. While we will learn more in time, we hope that Sebastian, his family, and his loved ones take the time that they need to fully heal and recuperate,” said Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez.
“We want to thank Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas for his years of service to his district and to the state of California while in the Assembly. We look forward to seeing his civic engagement in the years ahead.”
Gonzalez said Governor Brown will set a date for a special election in 2018 and the process for the Democratic Party to endorse a candidate for the 54th Assembly District will follow suit.
This post was updated with a comment from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez.