Gov. Appoints Becerra to Replace Harris as Atty. Gen.

December 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

He’s the highest-ranking Latino in Congress, but Rep. Xavier Becerra will soon vacate his Congressional seat to become California’s first Latino Attorney General.

In a surprise move last Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown announced on Twitter his appointment of Becerra to replace Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris who has been elected to the U.S. Senate.

“Xavier has been an outstanding public servant — in the State Legislature, U.S. Congress, and as a deputy attorney general. I’m confident he will be a champion for all Californians and help our state aggressively combat climate change,” Brown’s announcement said.

Becerra called the nomination “an opportunity I cannot refuse.”

The son of Mexican immigrants, Becerra, 58, is closing out his term as House Democratic Caucus Chair. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992 and is the first Latino to serve on the powerful Committee on Ways and Means. He’s also Chair of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security.

Before his election to Congress, Becerra served in the State Assembly and as a deputy attorney general in the California Department of Justice. He earned a law degree from Stanford Law School and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University.

A high-profile surrogate for Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president, Becerra was for a time floated as a possible vice-presidential running mate.

Brown’s nomination, though unexpected, is being viewed across the state as a strategic move to replace Harris with someone well prepared to do legal battle with the Trump Administration on multiple fronts, including climate change, immigration, and the economy. His intimate knowledge of the inner-workings of Capital politics, federal departments and budgets, as well as the relationships built over the last two decades are assets that could serve the state well in what could be a rocky road ahead.

(Office of Rep. Xavier Becerra)

(Office of Rep. Xavier Becerra)

“As a former deputy attorney general, I relished the chance to be our state’s chief law enforcement officer to protect consumers, advance criminal justice reform and, of course, keep our families safe,” Becerra said in his statement accepting the nomination, expressing gratitude for the governor’s confidence in his abilities.

“Governor Brown and our state leaders lean forward when it comes to advancing and protecting the rights and interests of the more than 38 million people in California,” said Becerra. He pointed out that during his 24 years in Congress he’s “been part of some of the greatest debates confronting our nation, from opposing the Iraq war, to fighting to help Americans recover from the Great Recession, to launching the bipartisan immigration talks and helping write our nation’s health security law.”

Becerra has national stature, regularly appearing on political talk shows and campaigning for Democrats across the country.

MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz congratulated Brown on the appointment, calling it “inspired.”

“California’s attorney general has numerous critical responsibilities, including defending the laws of the state and defending the rights of all of its residents. It is abundantly clear, based on MALDEF’s experience working with Rep. Becerra, that he will undertake these responsibilities with great skill and tremendous commitment; great success will result for all Californians,” Saenz said.

The California Latino Legislative Caucus is also hailing the appointment. Caucus Chair Assemblyman Luis Alejo called it “another historic milestone for Latino leadership in California…

“Rep. Becerra’s experience and leadership at the national level will be of great service to California as we gird ourselves for potential federal rollbacks of the progressive policies we have enacted for the people of this great state,” Alejo said. “With the racially divisive rhetoric we heard from the campaign of the President-elect, we can think of no better champion in the Attorney General’s office than Rep. Becerra.”

As attorney general, Becerra would become the second Latino in statewide office; Secretary of State Alex Padilla is the other. Both bodies in the State Legislature are also headed by Latinos, Senate President pro Tempore Kevin De León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who said “Becerra clearly has the experience to step into this vital role,” and the “tenacity” and “much-needed qualities for an attorney general given the troubling times ahead.”

Brown’s nomination will become official when Harris is sworn-in on Jan. 3. He must be confirmed by both the Senate and Assembly, which is widely expected to go forward without problem.

The timing of his appointment could make Becerra eligible to run for up to two additional terms — serving nearly 10 years as attorney general. It could also serve as a high-profile launching pad for a run for U.S. Senate or governor.


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