Breaking News: Governor Newsom Appoints Reformer as the New AG, Rob Bonta (Updated)

Assemblymember Rob Bonta speaking at San Quentin last summer

By David M. Greenwald

San Francisco, CA – In a move that will no doubt please progressives and came as a shock to many, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the appointment of Assemblymember Rob Bonta as the next Attorney General, filling the seat vacated by Xavier Becerra.

A reformer in the legislature who began his career in John Kekar’s prestigious San Francisco law firm and went to the City Attorney’s Office before being elected to the Assembly, Bonta, assuming his nomination is confirmed by a state legislature overwhelmingly Democratic, would become the first Filipino American to serve as California Attorney General.

“Throughout his career in public service, Assemblymember Bonta has taken on big fights to reverse historic injustice – many affecting communities of color. He has been a leader in the fight to reform our justice system and stand up to the forces of hate,” the Governor’s office said in their release.

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

“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. And most importantly, at this moment when so many communities are under attack for who they are and who they love, Rob has fought to strengthen hate crime laws and protect our communities from the forces of hate. He will be a phenomenal Attorney General, and I can’t wait to see him get to work.”

Assemblymember Rob Bonta was elected to the California State Assembly’s 18th District in 2012, where he represents the cities of Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro. He became the first Filipino American state legislator in California’s then 160-plus-year history.

“Thank you, Governor. I am humbled by the confidence you have placed in me,” said Bonta. “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. 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.”

Elected to the State legislature as the first Filipino-American in California history, he has become “a statewide leader in the fights for racial, economic and environmental justice, advancing reforms that put California on the cutting edge.”

SF DA Chesa Boudin, a leading reformer, was excited by the pick.

“Assemblymember Bonta has been a leader in the fight for criminal justice reform and we have partnered on reforms together. I commend @GavinNewsom for this fantastic selection!” Boudin tweeted.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón was also excited about the pick.

“I commend Governor Gavin Newsom on his selection of Rob Bonta to be California’s next attorney general,” District Attorney Gascón said. “As evidenced by his prolific authorship and support for reform-minded policies in the legislature, Mr. Bonta shares a commitment to safety, equity, rehabilitation and redemption that will serve the interests and well-being of all Californians as we work to modernize a dated system of justice.”

He noted, “The governor’s selection of Mr. Bonta also comes at a particularly difficult time for our AAPI community as elected and law enforcement leaders across the nation are working to #StopAsianHate.

“That California’s chief law enforcement official is a member of the AAPI community speaks volumes to the Golden State’s commitment to advance tolerance and inclusion and end the violence visited against vulnerable members of our community.”

Senator Nancy Skinner was also excited by the pick, issuing a statement stating, “I’m confident that Attorney General Bonta will continue his record as a progressive champion and will work tirelessly to address racial and economic disparities and inequities in our justice system.”

Senator Scott Wiener added, “He’s a tenacious, thoughtful, and progressive leader. He’ll do great things as Attorney General. I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes in this important role.”

Among his legislative accomplishments:

Outlawed For-Profit Prisons in California: Bonta authored legislation that made California the first in the nation to ban for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers.

Led Major Sentencing Overhaul Effort: Following statewide marijuana legalization, Bonta authored the California law to automatically expunge and modify criminal records for people convicted of minor marijuana charges.

Took on Big Polluters: Bonta authored major environmental justice legislation and has been a leader in the fight against climate change and to ensure every community equitably benefits from our green economy.

Passed Nation’s Strongest Statewide Renter Protections: Bonta led the fight to pass statewide protections for renters, ultimately resulting in the nation’s strongest protections against wrongful evictions.

Fought to Strengthen Hate Crime Laws & Protect Communities: Bonta has introduced a number of bills to improve hate crime statutes, support victims of hate violence, and build bridges between law enforcement and targeted communities.

Protected Immigrant Families from Deceptive ICE Tactics: Bonta authored first-of-its-kind legislation requiring immigrants to be informed of their rights before speaking to ICE agents.

Sought to End Predatory Bail Laws: Bonta co-wrote the law that sought to end the racist and predatory for-profit bail system.

Required Independent Investigations of Unarmed Deaths: Bonta co-authored the law that required an independent investigation when there is a death of an unarmed civilian by law enforcement.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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      1. Ron Glick

        Sorry but the recall isn’t going anywhere beyond getting on the ballot. This seals the Asian and Filipino votes for Newsom. As does the Padilla pick lock up the Latino vote.

        I used to say that Republicans can’t win in California as long as people think they want to deport grandma. Now I would change that to Republicans can’t win in California as long as people think they want to beat up grandma.

        The choice will be Trump, Falconer or Cox versus Newsom, Padilla and Bonta. The outcome is a no brainer.

        1. Ron Oertel

          I doubt that Newsom will be recalled, but I also think that some folks over-estimate how “progressive” various groups actually are.

          For example, there appears to be significant pushback against the “progressive” politics of the SF school board, primarily from Asians concerned about the decision to do-away with merit-based enrollments at the top public high school.  Along with related comments from one board member, in which she stated that Asians were taking advantage of “systemic racism” (words to that effect).

          Perhaps at some point, one might wonder if it’s really systemic “white” racism, as other groups advance within it.

          Then, there’s the assaults on Asians, throughout the Bay Area and beyond.  I doubt that they’re very “progressive” about that.

          And then there’s the majority rejection of Affirmative Action, by all groups (I think) except blacks.

          We can probably also discuss how “progressive” other groups actually are, as well.  (On average, not by individual.) But if I had to guess, “progressive” politics are dominated primarily by “enlightened” whites.

          I wouldn’t count on California remaining a Democratic stronghold, forever. But not due to “white” people.


        2. Don Shor

          Republicans can’t win in California

          You can probably just leave it at that. So far as I can recall, no Republican has won statewide office since Schwarzenegger was re-elected in 2006. And this appointment just adds another impressive person of color to be instantly considered for any statewide election.

          Conservatives ought to just form their own party in this state. The GOP is a zombie organization with little prospect for better outcomes in any election in the next decade, if ever. The big difference between Democrats and Republicans in California is that, as some pundit said, the Democrats actually have a bench: a full roster of officeholders who have fund-raising prowess, name recognition, and a base of proven support from which to launch statewide campaigns. If anything, there’s too many Dems waiting in the wings for Senate seats to open up and a shot at the governorship. The Republicans have none of that. Their only success was when a movie star decided to run. Not many of them handy with the right party registration.

        3. Alan Miller

          So people vote by the race of the politician being the same as theirs.  How disappointing 😐

          (I’ve never voted for anyone because they were Jewish . . . nor for sharing my beautiful olive-skinned complexion)

        4. Ron Oertel

          If one really examined how folks advance in politics (e.g., support needed from various interest groups to be successful), I suspect that sausage-making would look delectable in comparison.

          From what I can tell, teachers have a great deal of influence (as one such group). It would be interesting to see a rough percentage of (all) tax dollars that are ultimately directed to those associated with school districts. (Informally, I’ve heard that it’s at least half of all tax dollars.)

          Sometime, I’d suggest reviewing the list of lobbyists for Sacramento, alone. I’ve briefly seen it, and it might make the U.S. Congress jealous. 🙂

          I understand that Newsom was dining with a lobbyist at the French Laundry, which I think is far more concerning than whether or not he had a mask on, at the time. (Apparently, believing it important enough to attend during a pandemic, regardless.) Not sure who else was at that dining table.

  1. Eric Gelber

    and came as a shock to many, …

    Should only have come as a shock to those who haven’t been paying attention. Bonta is a smart and highly effective legislator and will no doubt be an excellent AG.

    1. David Greenwald

      Wasn’t a reflection on Bonta, it was an expectation that Newsom would pick someone less reform-oriented. That was the expectation in the various circles I spoke to.

  2. Ron Glick

    “And then there’s the majority rejection of Affirmative Action, by all groups (I think) except blacks.”

    Tells us more about the poster than the issue.

    1. Ron Oertel

      And, what do you think that tells us?

      Getting back to the point, there seems to be a “celebration” by so-called progressives whenever a person of color is selected to some political position.

      But some of these progressives may be surprised, when they learn that not all people of color actually share their views.

      And again, I’d ask at what point is the system actually a “white racist” system, if some groups of color are advancing quite well, within it?  Politically, and otherwise? As noted in a crude and offensive manner – by one San Francisco school board member in regard to Asian academic and economic achievement?

      On a different point, the political system itself ensures that the only candidates to select from are those who have gone through what is essentially a “pre-approval” process, by various interest groups. Including those connected to school districts, it seems.

      That’s the real problem – the choices that make it that far, regardless of party affiliation.

    2. Keith Olsen

      Tells us more about the poster than the issue.

      Was Ron O’s comment not factual?  I don’t understand the your response here or the reason for.

      1. Ron Oertel

        It was intended to be a personal attack – glad that you noticed it, as well.  🙂

        I’ve learned to “flush those out” by asking what was intended, rather than allowing nasty innuendo to fester.

        1. Ron Oertel

          It is factual, and has nothing to do with my views.  I did vaguely recall it, from a prior article.

          Assuming this October survey held, all groups (except blacks) were opposed to it.  And even within that group, there was significant opposition.

          Not sure if that changed on election day. I believe the subsequent article I saw show that it did not change, but I’m not inclined to conduct an exhaustive search for it. Of course, you’re free to do so, but perhaps you can refrain from the nasty innuendo. (For the second time, no less.)

          The strongest opposition (by far) was from Native Americans, according to the reference below.

        2. Keith Olsen

          No, it is not factual. It is an opinion and shows the poster’s biases.

          Your proof please since you made the accusation that it’s not factual.  According to a survey from UofCAL taken the month before the Prop 16 election Ron has it exactly right as he’s posted in his link.  If you can refute him RON G please show your proof.  Otherwise your comments mean nothing.

          Here’s an article I found that supports Ron O’s claims:

          It is noteworthy that despite every major Latino organization promoting Prop 16, every single majority-Hispanic county voted against it. 

        3. Ron Glick

          Usually its incumbent on the person making the factual statement to provide the supporting evidence. Repeal of 209 lost at the ballot box but that doesn’t confirm Ron O’s blanket statement of all groups except one on Affirmative Action. The article Keith linked to provides no supporting data.

        4. Ron Oertel

          My initial comment was based upon recollection of an article, as noted.  I’ve subsequently provided evidence which supports exactly what I recalled.

          So has Keith.

          Suggest that you provide your evidence, challenging it.

          And perhaps more importantly, provide your evidence that any of this reflects my personal “bias”, as you claim. Or that it “reflects upon me” in some manner that you haven’t exactly spelled-out. What, exactly are you trying to imply? Let’s hear it.

        5. Alan Miller

          The article Keith linked to provides no supporting data.

          I’ve subsequently provided evidence which supports exactly what I recalled.

          So has Keith.

          One person says the facts are supported, the other says they are not supported.  I’m sure one of them is “science”.  What should I believe, dear reader?  Who should I believe, dear reader?

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