There is life after back-to-back political losses for Woodlake native Amanda Rentería.
The 42-year-old Rentería accepted an offer from state Attorney General Xavier Becerra as chief of operations. She is in charge of the 1,000 state Department of Justice employees who provide support to 3,500 attorneys.
The position not only puts Rentería on Becerra’s executive team, but gives the San Joaquín Valley a bigger profile in Sacramento.
In an exclusive telephone interview with Vida en el Valle on Tuesday (April 4), Rentería said her new job is exactly what she needed following the 2016 presidential campaign where she served as political director for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
In 2014, she lost a challenge to Congressman David Valado, R-Hanford, despite strong backing from the Democratic national party and a rally appearance by Vice President Joe Biden.
“This is really, really a special place to be,” said Rentería, who moved to Sanger following the presidential election. She spends half her time in Sacramento but is headquartered in San Francisco.
Rentería sees her task today as helping to battle President Donald J. Trump’s executive orders and actions that could hurt California residents.
“We’re already seeing with the Trump administration how important it is to be working at full capacity with what’s at stake,” said Rentería.
There’s no more important place to be than here when you think about our laws that are at stake.
Amanda Rentería, chief of operations for state Attorney General’s Office
“There is no doubt that Trump is looking at California in terms of what can he slow down or reverse,” she said. “And, we have an Attorney General who is saying, ‘I wasn’t put here to keep things as they are, but to charge forward.’
“So, we’ve got to make sure this organization is able to do that.”
Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Becerra – a Sacramento native who represented a downtown Los Ángeles district in Congress for 23 years – to the state’s top law enforcement post when previous Attorney General Kamala Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate. Becerra was sworn into office in January.
“The reason I got into this business was the public service aspect,” said Rentería, who mauled several career opportunities until Becerra called her.
“There’s no more important place to be than here when you think about our laws that are at stake,” she said.
The U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and, a crackdown on undocumented immigrants are issues that have generational impact, said Rentería.
“California is going to be on the front line in terms of Trump thinking about what he can bring back through executive action,” she said.
Wanting to protect vulnerable communities, she said, did not disappear after November.
“When the campaign ended, it didn’t mean I stopped wanting to give back,” said Rentería. “All those values we fought for didn’t stop.”
Becerra, she said, was able to tap into that spirit in getting her to work for him. He told her, “Here is where it’s happening. Here is where we are going to uphold those values.”
Working with Becerra won’t be new for Rentería, who met him in Washington, D.C. when she worked as chief of staff for Sen. Debbie Stebenow, D-Michigan, and Becerra was a Democratic leader in Congress.
Rentería said nothing surprises her about Trump’s tweets or actions.
“I am no longer – and for awhile I haven’t – been surprised by anything,” she said. “I think that (surprise) ended for anyone on the (Clinton) campaign a long time ago.”
The problem is, she said, that “it is no longer 140 characters that are interesting to watch; but, those 140 characters have an impact about the safety of our troops, or what’s going to happen to our families that are being torn apart.”
California, she said, will be a leading opponent to Trump.
“California and other states are recognizing that the White House has real implications on everyday life even though you are 3,000 miles away,” she said.