California Senate Republicans have chosen state Sen. Scott Wilk to lead their caucus, ousting incumbent state Sen. Shannon Grove, according to multiple Capitol sources.

In trading Grove for Wilk, Republicans are opting for a more moderate choice. Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) periodically votes with Democrats, and he has scored rare endorsements from organized labor — the types of connections that could increase his clout in a Capitol dominated by Democrats. He just won back a battleground seat, thanks in part to massive spending by the California Republican Party and interest groups, and he is termed out in 2024.

Dissatisfaction with Grove’s leadership was already mounting after Senate Republicans lost two seats this election even as California Republicans picked up multiple House seats, shriveling the Senate GOP caucus to just nine members. Grove (R-Bakersfield) exacerbated the situation with a tweet blaming the U.S. Capitol riots on antifa.

While Grove deleted and sought to walk back the tweet, sources said it amplified concerns among mainstream Republican allies like business groups that Grove embraces fringe views. She had previously asserted that President Donald Trump won a second term.

Grove’s ouster came on the day President Joe Biden took office, underscoring the larger decisions facing the California Republican Party. She has been a stalwart defender of Trump, but many California Republicans believe the president’s enduring toxicity in California has damaged down-ballot candidates and alienated moderates.

A source within the Republican caucus who requested anonymity cited “the super-tight association with the Trump administration and the not well-timed comments on antifa.”

“That may work in Bakersfield, but it does not work in Sacramento,” the source said. “That firebrand Trumpism has become a significant liability.”

While Grove represented the conservative areas around Bakersfield, the hub of California’s oil industry and an important agricultural center, Wilk’s district mostly encompasses northern Los Angeles exurbs and the high desert that extends east into San Bernardino County.

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