Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, March 24, announced he has chosen Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland to be California’s next attorney general.
Bonta, 48, who has a law degree from Yale University, was the first Filipino American elected to the state Legislature in 2012.
A close ally of Newsom, Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes much of the East Bay, stretching from Oakland to San Leandro and including Alameda.
The nomination is subject to confirmation by the California State Assembly and Senate within 90 days, where approval is expected.
“Rob represents what makes California great – our desire to take on righteous fights and reverse systematic injustices,” Newsom said. “Growing up with parents steeped in social justice movements, Rob has become a national leader in the fight to repair our justice system and defend the rights of every Californian. And most importantly, at this moment when so many communities are under attack for who they are and who they love, Rob has fought to strengthen hate crime laws and protect our communities from the forces of hate. He will be a phenomenal Attorney General, and I can’t wait to see him get to work.”
The office, the state’s top law enforcement official, became open after President Biden nominated California’s previous attorney general, Xavier Becerra, to be secretary of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services.
Becerra was narrowly confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a 50-49 vote last week.
“As California’s Attorney General, I will work tirelessly every day to ensure that every Californian who has been wronged can find justice and that every person is treated fairly under the law,” said Bonta, who would be the first Filipino American to ever hold the office.
California’s attorney general leads the state’s Department of Justice. Based in Sacramento, the agency has roughly 4,700 employees. It prosecutes people and companies who violate state laws, defends state government agencies in court cases and advises the state government on legal issues.
But it also leads on issues such as police misconduct, and it is likely Bonta’s office, if the Legislature ultimately approves the post, will play a key role in efforts to ease long-strained relations between communities hit hard by discrimination and clashes with law enforcement.
Bonta’s choice comes amid rising concern over hate crimes and other incidents directed against Asian Americans . His supporters hope Bonta can help strengthen relations between law enforcement and immigrant groups, said members of a coalition of leaders who last week called for an attorney general of Aisian/Pacific Islander descent.
One of the state’s most powerful political positions, attorney general in the past has been a stepping-stone to higher office. Vice President Kamala Harris served as California attorney general from 2011 to 2017, before being elected to the U.S. Senate.
Often it has been a stop en route to the governor’s office. Former Gov. Jerry Brown served as state attorney general from 2007 to 2011 before his final stint as governor from 2011 to 2019, His father, Edmund “Pat” Brown, was attorney general in the 1950s before being elected governor in 1958. Other California governors who first served as attorney general include Republicans George Deukmejian from 1979 to 1983 and Earl Warren from 1939 to 1943.
Several high-profile leaders had been on Newsom’s list of potential picks, including several hopefuls from Southern California.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, got much of the behind-the-scenes buzz, spurred by lobbying from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Schiff, a former federal prosecutor and 20-year member of Congress, had law enforcement credentials. A lead House prosecutor in the first impeachment of President Donald Trump, Schiff rose to household-name status raising his profile among the Democratic faithful.
Schiff, 60, praised Bonta’s selection. “I want to congratulate Rob Bonta on his appointment as California’s Attorney General, and Gov. Newsom on another good choice,” Schiff said. “I look forward to working with both of them in the days ahead on defeating the pandemic, criminal justice reform, gun safety, consumer protection, the environment and other key issues. We need to keep moving California forward and beat back the efforts of those who are seeking to roll back our progress.”
Other Southern Californians whose names were circulated as possible choices:
- Rick Chavez Zbur, executive director of Equality California, which advocates on LGBTQ issues. Zbur, based in Southern California, is a lawyer with a long history of advocating for LGBTQ+ and environmental causes.
- Eloise Gómez Reyes, of San Bernardino, the Assembly’s majority leader;
- Former state Sen. Martha M. Escutia. Escutia, from East L.A., served in both the state Senate and Assembly; and
- Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who has tweeted toe-to-toe with Donald Trump over the last four years.
The selection completes a rare trio of opportunities for Newsom — to select a U.S. Senator, a California secretary of state, and a state attorney general.
In December, he tapped then-Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill Harris’ term in the Senate after she became vice president. He then picked former San Diego-area Assemblywoman Shirley Weber to fill Padilla’s spot as secretary of state. And then came Bonta, to fill Becerra’s seat — affirming a pattern of appointees with whom Newsom was well-acquainted and who were pioneering picks in their own right.
Padilla is the first California Latino to ever be in the U.S. Senate. Weber is the first Black secretary of state. And Bonta is the first Filipino-American to be California’s top law officer.
“This is not only a great day for our AAPI Californians, but all California,” said L.A. County Democratic Party chairman Mark Gonzalez.
“I applaud Governor Gavin Newsom for making California a model for the country in how to rectify the willful neglect of growing and youthful communities of color who are left out of key decision-making positions across our most fundamental institutions by sending the first Filipino to lead the nation’s second largest Department of Justice,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.
Source: Orange County Register