Luck may be on Congressman Xavier Becerra’s side when the state Assembly convened on Friday the 13th.
Relying on only one Republican vote – that of Oceanside Assemblymember Rocky Chávez – the state Assembly confirmed the 58-year-old Sacramento native as the state’s next attorney general.
The vote was 56-23.
In a written statement, Chávez said: “Although there are many things that the Congressman and I do not agree on, I believe he will uphold the California Constitution and I believe him when he says he will not be a thorn in the side of the Federal Government just to be a thorn. This is a time to rise above partisan politics and try and work together with our new Attorney General.”
The state Senate will convene next week to vote on Becerra’s nomination by Gov. Jerry Brown. Becerra is expected to win confirmation and succeed Kamala Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate last November.
Earlier this week, Becerra sat in front of members of the Assembly Special Committee on the Office of the Attorney General to answer questions ranging from gun laws, minimum wage, civil rights, affordable housing, health care, racial profiling, public safety, sanctuary cities, immigrant and LGBTQ rights, human trafficking, education and the environment.
On the Assembly floor, most Democrats voiced their strong support for Becerra.
“We looked at his congressional and academic record, we heard what people said about him and we found him to be an individual who knows California very well; who knows the issues in California very well and who knows the laws and policies that are in California. He reflects the views of this body,” said Assemblymember Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay and committee co-chair.
Others pointed to Becerra’s upbringing and personal story as an example to follow for future generations.
“His story is that of so many of California’s immigrants. He grew up in Sacramento, attended Stanford Law School, and is a product of the California dream. He can lead a state at such a critical time,” said Assemblymember Lorena González, D-San Diego and vice-chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus.
A few Republicans voiced their opposition to Becerra’s nomination, including Assemblymember James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, who highlighted issues of religious freedom, immigration, the second amendment and human trafficking as reasons why he could not support Becerra’s stance on the issues.
“This year, we saw an unprecedented attack on religious freedom with SB 1146, legislation that would have imposed state anti-discrimination laws on our religious universities, including telling them how they could set up their married and single housing, what clubs they can and cannot allow on campus, and what their moral codes could require,” said Gallagher. “It is therefore very important that the Attorney General defend against this kind of over-reach into our religious freedoms. He doesn’t understand that.”
Gallagher said Becerra did not specify whether he would support Kate’s Law, otherwise known as H.R. 3011, the Congerssional bill that would establish mandatory minimums for illegal Reentry Act of 2015.
The bill was introduced last August after Juan Francisco López-Sánchez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, was accused in the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Kathryn Steinle on Pier 14 in the Embarcadero district of San Francisco.
The shooting sparked controversy and political debate over San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city. Gallagher says Becerra’s response when asked about Kate’s Law was not enough to convince him to vote in favor of his nomination.
“If you are an illegal immigrant and a felon, you should be put in prison and there should be no sanctuary place for felons in California. Not until he (Becerra) commits to supporting Kate’s Law, I will be in opposition to his nomination,” said Gallagher.
Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, said such issues such as Kate’s law and gun rights and others addressed by Gallagher are “complex issues that require extensive knowledge of the law and cannot be so easily addressed,” and defended Becerra’s stance on the issues.
Weber said Becerra must be observed, not just as an attorney general nominee, but as a person who has defied the odds, given back to his community, achieved success by implementing the values that were instilled in him as a child, and to look at him as a true American success story.
“He is a man who embodies the ‘every man’ concept. He is a man of his times. He comes from an extremely humble background. His family had no access to educational opportunities. His father didn’t go to middle school and his mother didn’t graduate from high school,” said Weber.
“But, they taught him California’s values–that if you work hard, and do what is right, give to your community and to California – you can create a successful life. But more importantly, never forget where you came from and he has not forgotten.”
If the state Senate approves his nomination next week, Becerra would go on to become the first Latino to hold the position of Attorney General of California.