Politics

California Gov. Gavin Newsom nominates Democratic state Assemblyman Rob Bonta, the first Filipino American to hold the attorney general post

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday nominated Rob Bonta to be the state’s next attorney general, which would make Bonta, a Democratic state Assemblyman, the first Filipino American to hold the post in California’s history. Rob Bonta is a criminal justice reformer and the state’s first Filipino legislator. ​

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday delegated Democratic Assemblymember Rob Bonta as California attorney general, picking a leading advocate for criminal equity change who has campaigned to cancel the death penalty and take out money bail for some offenses.

Whenever affirmed by the state Legislature, Rob Bonta, a resident of Alameda, will be the first Filipino American to serve as California attorney general, having likewise set the achievement for the state Assembly when he was elected in 2012, representing a Bay Area district that incorporates Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s appointment fills a vacancy left by Xavier Becerra’s flight to become the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary in the Biden administration after he was affirmed Thursday by the Senate.

“Rob represents what makes California great — our desire to take on righteous fights and reverse systematic injustices,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said 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.”

The post became vacant when the Biden administration designated Xavier Becerra to be wealth and human services secretary.

Rob Bonta said he was lowered by Newsom’s trust in him. Bonta’s nomination was moved vigorously by defenders of criminal justice reform, Asian American groups, and reformist advocates. He led endeavors in the state to end cash bail, boycott for-profit prisons and fortify disdain hate crime laws, among different topics, Newsom said.

There has been a renewed focus on the absence of Asian American and Pacific Islander portrayal in positions of power in the midst of an ascent in anti-Asian American disdain occurrences during the Covid pandemic and after a gunman in Georgia killed eight individuals, six of whom were Asian American, in a string of spa shootings. The leaders raised the issue as they censured an Atlanta-region shooting on March 16 in which a white shooter is blamed for killing eight individuals including six women of Asian descent.

16% of the state’s populace distinguishes as Asian American or Pacific Islander, as indicated by census data. Rob Bonta, the child of local activists, was likewise the first Filipino American state legislator in California’s history when he was appointed for the Assembly in 2012. VP Kamala Harris, who is of South Asian descent, additionally held the post.

“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,” Rob Bonta 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.”

Rob Bonta’s appointment comes only days after a few Asian and Pacific Islander leaders approached the governor to appoint an attorney general who might address incidents in which Asian Americans have been focused for racist attacks.

“Assemblymember Bonta’s legal, legislative and lived experiences make him the best choice to represent the diversity of this state,” state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), chairman of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, said in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom. He called the appointment “a major step towards the equitable representation of California’s fastest-growing racial and ethnic groups, Asian Pacific Islanders.”

The governor reported the appointment at the International Hotel Manilatown Center in San Francisco, where Bonta showed emotion when he discussed the Asian Americans who were pioneers in the civil rights movement before him. He likewise recognized the racism that Asian Americans have confronted.

“Throughout California history, so many of us have felt the sting of hate and discrimination. I have,” Rob Bonta said. “So many of us have been targeted and attacked because of who we are, where we’re from, and who we love.”

He said time after time disdain violations against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community has been “swept under the rug,” yet added: “We’ll take action.”

“Rob has fought to strengthen hate crime laws and protect our communities from the forces of hate,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

The appointment closes weeks of political fighting by supporters of a dozen Democrats with interest in becoming the state’s top cop, including Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank.

Rob Bonta, 49, was one of four names suggested for the job by the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. He had the sponsorship of various Asian American and Pacific Islander groups, as well as reformist groups and leaders on criminal and environmental justice. His appointment comes in the midst of a period of rising viciousness against Asian Americans. After six women of Asian descent were killed in a Georgia shooting spree, top AAPI elected authorities approached Gov. Gavin Newsom to name Bonta to the job.

Rob Bonta, a Democrat, would supplant Xavier Becerra, who was affirmed a week ago as President Joe Biden’s health and human services secretary. Pending likely affirmation by the state’s Democratic Legislature, Bonta would hold the job through 2022 when he would need to run for election. The attorney general job accompanies an annual salary of $182,189, and the position is next up for election in 2022.

With that race approaching, Rob Bonta will soon approach his abilities as a massive political fundraiser. His reelection committee had $2.3 million in its latest filing.

He has additionally shown dependability to the governor, arising in recent weeks as a leading voice against the compromised review of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Rob Bonta, who is married and has three children, is the Assembly assistant majority leader and serves on committees overseeing spending, communications, and health problems.

On Wednesday, he said that the criminal justice system is “fundamentally broken.”

In the Legislature he has led efforts to change the state’s criminal justice system, including a bill now forthcoming that would mostly eliminate cash bail for wrongdoings and numerous peaceful, low-level lawful offenses.

It is his second attempt on the issue. In 2018, Rob Bonta won passage of a reform bill however the bail industry qualified a referendum on the action and voters dismissed the progressions a year ago.

“The jailhouse door should not swing open and closed based on how much money someone has,” Bonta said when he presented the current year’s bill. “There is no disputing the present system wrongly treats people who are rich and guilty better than those who are poor and innocent.”

A year ago, Bonta called for investigators to be needed to recuse themselves from the investigation and prosecution of law requirement offense if their election campaigns accept financial contributions from law enforcement unions.

“This is about trust in law enforcement and trust in the independence of our elected prosecutors,” he said.

Rob Bonta likewise supported Gavin Newsom’s 2019 order for a ban on executions in California. That same year, Bonta coauthored Assembly Constitutional Amendment 12, which would have placed an action on the state ballot to rescind the death penalty, albeit the bill didn’t progress.

“I believe the death penalty is wrong for California and I oppose it,” Rob Bonta said at the time. “Not only is it inhumane and uncivilized, but it is also broken.”

He additionally said the death penalty uniquely affects minorities, who he said: “are far more likely to be executed than white people, especially if the victim is white.”

Rob Bonta additionally voted a year ago to pass Assembly Bill 1506, a law that requires the state attorney general’s office to research police shootings that bring about the demise of an unarmed civilian.

His appointment was hailed by advocates for criminal justice reform, including Cristine Soto DeBerry, executive director of Prosecutors Alliance of California, a group of district attorneys that supports tending to inequities in the criminal justice system.

“Assemblymember Rob Bonta has been a leader on criminal justice reform in the Legislature and we are thrilled that he will take that courage, humanity, and commitment to justice with him to the attorney general’s office,” she said.

Anti-death penalty advocate and actor Mike Ferrell said he trusts Rob Bonta “will be more active than our last two attorneys general.”

Yet, Kent Scheidegger of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation expressed worry about Bonta’s designation.

“It goes beyond the death penalty. It’s become much larger than that,” Scheidegger said. “There is a whole movement to water down criminal law and remove accountability for people who commit the most horrible crimes.”

Democratic political consultant Bill Wong said Newsom’s pick will help harden his help among California’s influential Asian American and Pacific Islander electors and help the governor beat back the Republican-led effort to review him from office.

“Keep in mind that 40% of the spike in hate crimes that have occurred since December occurred in California. So this is like the epicenter of anti-Asian hate,” Wong said, refering to a report by Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit that tracks occurrences of discrimination, hate, and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

Rob Bonta was born in Quezon City in the Philippines, he said. His parents decided to move with him to California when he was 2 months old, acting in front of Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos’ statement of military law, he said in a biographical account.

Rob Bonta’s parents worked as coordinators for the United Farm Workers of America, and he reviews a childhood living in a trailer in the Tehachapi Mountains outside Bakersfield, near the home of César Chávez, the founder of the group, an experience that he said surrendered him a nearby perspective on the battles of agricultural workers.

He said he was affected by his dad, who was additionally associated with the civil rights movement in the South.

Rob Bonta got a degree from Yale Law School in the wake of dealing with Yale College, where he captained the soccer team.

Before his election to the Assembly, Rob Bonta was a representative city lawyer for San Francisco and worked as a private lawyer dealing with cases including racial profiling and other abuse.

He additionally served as a director of the Alameda Health Care District and as vice mayor for the city of Alameda.

Other legislation presented by Bonta has protected inhabitants from inappropriate removals, finished the use of for-profit, private jails, and set up the system of controlling cannabis after voters legalized recreational use of marijuana in 2016.

Rob Bonta additionally has confronted debate while in the Legislature. In 2017 the assemblyman formed a foundation and requested donations from interests with business at the Capitol. One of his foundation’s first contributions in 2018 was $25,000 gave to a nonprofit called Literacy Lab, where his wife was CEO and acquiring a six-figure salary, CalMatters announced in February 2020. Ethics specialists said that while such activities are not illicit, they ought not to be permitted.

The attorney general regulates the California Department of Justice, which has 4,500 lawyers, investigators, peace officers, and different laborers. As the state’s top lawyer, the attorney general prompts the state government on legal issues and defends the state in court when it faces litigation.

The role additionally requires the attorney general to help local examiners and police agencies with criminal investigations, and arraign infringement of state laws, including those ensuring the environment, charities, and gun safety.

The attorney general’s office additionally serves as a watchdog on police unfortunate behavior. A few pundits of the criminal justice system have condemned Becerra for not being forceful enough in examining police offices and officials blamed for excessive force and other unfortunate behavior.

Those equivalent criminal justice reform advocates had constrained Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint somebody who might act to diminish imprisonment, reform, or eliminate the bail system and consider law requirements responsible on different issues.

Becerra, 63, was the first Latino attorney general in California. He was delegated as the state’s top cop in 2016 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown to fill an opportunity when Kamala Harris was elected for the U.S. Senate.

As attorney general, Becerra was a leading litigator, challenging a large number of the previous president’s policies, has sued the Trump administration 123 times. The next state attorney general isn’t relied upon to spend as much time in court challenging government policy during the Biden administration.

Republican lawmakers said Wednesday that they trusted Rob Bonta would move toward the job differently.

“The Golden State has many challenges and I hope our new attorney general focuses on what matters to everyday Californians — safe streets, protection from fraud, identity theft, and ensuring our civil rights are protected,” said Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita.

The new selection represents the third high-profile political appointment by Gov. Gavin Newsom in recent months.

In December, the governor named Secretary of State Alex Padilla as the first Latino to represent California in the U.S. Senate, filling the vacancy made when Sen. Kamala Harris was elected VP. That same month, Newsom named Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego as secretary of state, filling the vacancy brought about by Padilla’s departure for Washington.

Before joining the Legislature he was deputy city attorney in San Francisco and a member of the Alameda City Council.

Attorney general is among the most highly coveted statewide offices in California, second just to the governor in terms of public recognition and power. VP Kamala Harris previously held the job, as did previous Gov. Jerry Brown.

“It’s enormously consequential at both the state and national level,” said Nathan Barankin, Harris’ former chief of staff. “I cannot think of a single policy area in public life that the California attorney general can’t exercise some influence over.”

Given California’s size — it’s the country’s most populous and one of the world’s biggest economies — decisions made by the attorney general, like whether to prosecute an organization, can move financial markets, Barankin said.

California attorneys general have used the job to go after private companies over labor law, environmental violations, and predatory practices, in addition to other things. Becerra sued the Trump administration above 100 times during his four years in office, challenging the Republican previous president’s policies on movement and health.

With Democratic President Joe Biden in office, there may still be points of friction, yet they will be far more modest than those of the previous four years. All things considered, California’s attorney general could work in partnership with the federal administration on issues like how to manage tech organizations and how to propel climate policy, Barankin said.

Gina Clayton-Johnson, executive director of the Essie Justice Group, a not-for-profit for women with imprisoned friends and family attempting to reform the prison system, supported Rob Bonta for the job. She referred to his bill to end private prisons as well as his help for legislation to ban police from utilizing certain limitations as examples of his commitment to transforming policing and the criminal justice system.

“He is someone who will listen and take my calls and respond to my and my community,” she said.

She said California’s attorney general should take on more independent investigations of police killings of Black individuals and otherwise stand up for communities of color. She additionally recommended the attorney general help encourage the returning of situations where individuals have been improperly detained.

In December, the governor delegated Secretary of State Alex Padilla as the first Latino to represent California in the U.S. Senate, filling the vacancy made when Sen. Kamala Harris was elected VP. That same month, Gov. Gavin Newsom selected Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego as secretary of state, filling the vacancy brought about by Padilla’s take off for Washington.

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