On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) as the next Attorney General of California.
Bonta, a Yale University graduate who had previously served as a Deputy City Attorney of San Francisco and an Alameda City Councilor before becoming an Assemblyman in 2012, would be become the first Filipino American to hold the AG position if confirmed by the legislature.
Assemblyman Bonta would also be replacing Xavier Becerra, who was recently confirmed as the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary in the Biden administration.
In a statement, Governor Newsom specifically noted how the recent upswing in violence against Asian Americans helped influence his decision to choose Bonta, including his past actions to strengthen hate crime laws.
“Rob represents what makes California great — our desire to take on righteous fights and reverse systematic injustices,” said Newsom in a statement on Wednesday. “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.”
Many Asian American and AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) groups, who had pushed for Bonta or another Asian American to be appointed to the position, lauded the Governor’s decision on Wednesday, as did the California Democratic Party, all of whom noted the importance of having an Asian American be Attorney General during these times, as well as his actions on the state legislature, which included his fights against for-profit prisons and climate change.
“CADEM congratulates Rob Bonta on the appointment as California’s first Filipino American Attorney General,” noted CADEM Chairman Rusty Hicks on Wednesday. “Bonta has played a key role in leading the fight for a more equitable justice system.
“At an early age, Bonta watched as his parents joined Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta as organizers of the United Farm Workers of America. As an attorney, Bonta carried the legacy of his family by working pro-bono to protect Californians against racial injustice. Throughout his career, he has paved the way for all communities – serving as the first Filipino American in the State Legislature, fighting on the forefront against corporate greed, standing up to for-profit prisons, and working to tackle climate change.”
Legislature to vote on Bonta’s confirmation to AG position within next 90 days
Assemblyman Bonta gave a brief statement on Wednesday, as well as a Tweet, accepting the appointment by Newsom.
“I became a lawyer because I saw the law as the best way to make a positive difference for the most people, and it would be an honor of a lifetime to serve as the attorney for the people of this great state,” stated Bonta. “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.”
— Rob Bonta (@RobBonta) March 24, 2021
Bonta’s appointment will only last until 2022, when the Attorney General position will be up for election. Many observers noted this on Wednesday.
“Right now he’s just a placeholder during a time when violence against Asians is high,” Washington-based political researcher Matt Thomas told the Globe. “Next year, who knows what the hot button issues will be, and then what? There’s not a lot of outrage against him being selected, but a huge part of that is knowing that he only has the job for less than two years, some of which may be under a new Governor.”
“Right now, most people are happy that it didn’t go to (Congressman Adam) Schiff or (Sacramento Mayor Darrell) Steinberg. But Bonta is less known than them to the general public, so we’ll see very quickly where he compares to those two in the coming months when he starts making his first big decisions as AG. Assuming the California legislature approves him.
The Assembly and Senate will now have up to 90 days to confirm Bonta as the next Attorney General, with Democratic majorities in both houses making his confirmation very likely to succeed. Bonta’s East Bay Assembly District seat will remain vacant following his elevation to AG until a special election is held, likely later this year.