The political revolving door is in full effect in Sacramento. Sitting Attorney General Kamala Harris won election for a rare opening in the U.S. Senate with the retirement of Barbara Boxer. Harris still had two years to serve as attorney general, which will become vacant when she is sworn into her new office January 3.
Thus, Governor Jerry Brown nominated current congressman, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) to fill the attorney general seat. Becerra was just elected to his 13th term in congress in November, having won his first election to Washington in 1992.
Given the political leanings of California, it is no surprise that Brown and Harris supported a liberal agenda. The governor has the same expectations for his new pick. “I’m confident (Becerra) will be a champion for all Californians and help our state aggressively combat climate change,” Brown wrote in a news release.
How liberal may Becerra be? According to the ranking site, That’s My Congressman, he scores a 63 of 100 on the liberal scale. That translates to voting for the liberal agenda 63% of the time in the last congressional session.
Other scorecard sites, such as conservative-leaning FreedomWorks, gives Becerra a 13%. Pro-abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood rank Becerra highly; he has a mixed record with the agriculture lobby; a VoteSmart summary of various rankings can be found here.
Among his legislative history, Becerra voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, voted against the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003; voted against the Iraq war; helped draft the Affordable Care Act; and was a supporter the “DREAM” act.
Becerra is trading off a tenured and powerful seat to serve at least two years as the state’s top law enforcement officer. He was the first Latino to serve on the House Ways and Means committee, considered a powerful body that sets tax policy. He also served as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which he chaired in 1997-98.
Becerra’s website bio describes himself as a son of a Mexican immigrant- his mother migrated after marrying his father. Becerra earned his bachelor’s and law degree from Stanford in the 1980s. He then started his legal career representing the mentally ill. Becerra moved on as a deputy attorney general in the state Department of Justice form 1987-90.
Then, he started his political career, winning a seat to the California Assembly, representing the 59th district covering Los Angeles County in 1990. After serving one term, he ran for the House of Representatives and has not looked back ever since.
“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,” Becerra said in a governor’s office news release.
He further wrote on his Facebook site:
“But California right now is ahead of the country when it comes to clean energy, commonsense treatment of immigrants, real health security and so much more.
Governor Brown has presented me with an opportunity I cannot refuse — to serve as Attorney General of my home state. 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.”
Speaking to the media after his nomination, he plans to target President-elect Donald Trump’s policies. “If you want to take on a forward-leaning state that is prepared to defend its rights and interests, come at us,” reported The Recorder.
A week after Trump’s election, he posted this on Twitter.
— Xavier Becerra (@XavierBecerra) November 15, 2016
The revolving door now heads to Becerra’s just won congressional seat. Constitutionally, the position remains vacant until a special election fills the seat- the governor cannot appoint someone to the slot as he did with the state attorney general opening. It could take up to five months to hold both a primary and general election.
Already, former Assembly Speaker John Perez announced his candidacy for the open office. The Los Angeles Times reports that other possible contenders include Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar and Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), while state Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) are likely to stay in their Sacramento seats.
As far as Becerra’s future past 2018, it is all speculation. Many in the media called Becerra the highest ranking Latino Democrat, and a possible Speaker of the House of the future. Now, that is off the table.
Some of it depends on if U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein runs or retires. The governor’s office is also open, as Jerry Brown is term limited (for real). When MSNBC’s Chuck Todd asked Becerra of his future plans, he played coy and said he was concerning himself with his attorney general confirmation process.
Becerra, a onetime attorney, has not had an active license to practice law since January 1, 1991, according the California State Bar’s website (and first reported by Breitbart). However, a spokesman from Governor Brown’s office says he is still qualified to serve as Attorney General according to legal precedent.
As written in California law (Government Code §12503), to be eligible for Attorney General, a candidate must “have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state for a period of at least five years immediately preceding his election or appointment to such office.” Becerra was initially admitted by the State Bar in 1985.
Being inactive for 25 years does not affect Becerra’s status. The governor’s office point to a challenge made to Jerry Brown in 2007, after he was elected Attorney General. A state court ruled that periods of voluntary inactivity (such as Becerra’s) count as part of the five years service.
He now awaits confirmation from the state legislature.
photo credit: Knight Foundation/Flickr