Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media
After weeks of speculation, Gov. Gavin Newsom has picked his replacement for former California attorney Gen. Xavier Becerra.
Last December, President Biden nominated Becerra to his Cabinet as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He was recently sworn into that role.
On Wednesday, the governor’s office issued a press release announcing Newsom has submitted the nomination of California Assemblymember Rob Andres Bonta (D-Alameda), 48, as the state’s next Attorney General.
“Rob represents what makes California great – our desire to take on righteous fights and reverse systematic injustices,” said Newsom. “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.”
Under California law, the legislature has 90 days to approve Bonta’s nomination.
Born in the Philippines, Bonta was elected to the California State Assembly’s 18th District in 2012, where he represents sections of Alameda County, including parts of Oakland and San Leandro. He became the first Filipino American state legislator in California’s then 160-plus-year history. He is also the state’s first Filipino American Attorney General.
Bonta’s father was involved in the Civil Rights Movement and stood with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., marching for equality and justice in Selma. His mother was and continues to be a long-time leader in the Filipino social justice movement.
Bonta thanked the governor, saying “I am humbled by the confidence you have placed in me.”
“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,” he said. “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.”
Growing up in a trailer not far away from César Chávez’s home, Bonta watched closely as his parents worked for the United Farm Workers of America (UFWA) and organized Filipino and Mexican American farmworkers. This experience had a huge impact on Bonta’s life choices and pursuits, inspiring his life’s commitment to aiding people.
Bonta worked his way through college cleaning laundry rooms and, with the help of financial aid, he was able to attend college and law school. He obtained his Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School after attending Yale College and Oxford University in England. He was also a scholar-athlete and captain of the Yale Soccer team.
His legal career included work as a Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, where he represented the City and County and its employees. He also worked as a private attorney, fighting to protect Californians from exploitation and racial profiling. Bonta was undefeated in trial court, never losing a jury verdict for his clients.
Bonta started his political career as a publicly-elected official at the local level, first as a director of the Alameda Health Care District and later as Vice Mayor of the City of Alameda.
In the state assembly, Bonta currently serves as the assistant majority leader, serving on the appropriations, communications and conveyance, governmental organization, and health committees. Bonta has authored several significant pieces of legislation that include:
Assembly Bill (AB) 1482, a landmark legislative victory for tenants in California. The 2019 legislation banned outrageous rent increases and unjust evictions and is considered the most impactful bill for tenants ever to become law.
AB 32, the historic, first-in-the-nation legislation to end the use of for-profit, private prisons and detention facilities in California.
AB 266, the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act, a set of regulations created to ensure patient and consumer safety and protect children from cannabis marketing, and safeguard the environment from harmful cultivation practices.
In 2018, California passed historic bail reform, Senate Bill 10, to end an unfair, unsafe, predatory, for-profit money bail system and replace it with a system that’s safer and fairer. Bonta co-authored SB 10 with his colleague Senator Bob Hertzberg,
Newsom’s decision arrives weeks after top Democratic Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) elected officials expressed their support for the Governor as he faces a recall effort.
Democrats U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, state Controller Betty Yee, Treasurer Fiona Ma, and Assemblymembers Bonta and David Chiu of Francisco endorsed Newsom’s leadership, citing his handling of wildfires, an economic recession, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve seen how he shares our values and we’ve seen the tremendous impact of his work on our diverse AAPI communities…He has earned our trust and the trust of our communities,” Chiu said. “Let’s call this recall what it is — a partisan, political power grab.”
Bonta recently appeared in a virtual meeting with state Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), the chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus. Author and co-author, Bradford and Bonta discussed the language in SB 2, which will revoke the certification of peace officers convicted of violating a person’s civil rights.
Newsom says he can’t wait to see Bonta get to work.
“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, said Newsom.