Rep Xavier Becerra Nominated For California Attorney General

FILE - In this May 11, 2016 file photo Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., arrives for a news conference in Washington. California Gov. Jerry Brown named Becerra to replace Attorney General Kamala Harris, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Becerra's nomination is subject to confirmation by the state Assembly and Senate. It will be officially submitted after Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate last month, resigns. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

FILE - In this May 11, 2016 file photo Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., arrives for a news conference in Washington. California Gov. Jerry Brown named Becerra to replace Attorney General Kamala Harris, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Becerra's nomination is subject to confirmation by the state Assembly and Senate. It will be officially submitted after Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate last month, resigns. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday named U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra as state attorney general, succeeding newly elected U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and ending speculation about whether he would appoint a caretaker or an ambitious Democrat for the second-highest statewide office.

Becerra, 58, a rising star in the party who served as a high-profile Latino surrogate for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign this year. He was widely discussed as a potential cabinet appointee if Clinton won.

But with the election of Trump and a Republican sweep of both houses of Congress, his 24-year tenure in the House is no longer as appealing. In the attorney general's position, Becerra could serve through 2018 then seek another eight years after that.

Trump's election upended his path to influence, said Thad Kousser, Political Science Department chair at the University of California, San Diego.

"Washington, DC is now red territory, so if he wants to have an impact on policy, California's the place to do it," Kousser said.

The Democratic governor noted Becerra's service in Congress, in the state Legislature and as a deputy attorney general. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the state Assembly and Senate. It will be officially submitted after Harris resigns.

"I'm confident he will be a champion for all Californians and help our state aggressively combat climate change," the Democratic governor said in a statement.

If confirmed, Becerra will be the state's chief law enforcement officer and will oversee the legal defenses of California's aggressive efforts to control greenhouse gases. He'll also preside over likely skirmishes between the state's liberal lawmakers and the administration of Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

"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 statement. "I'm deeply honored by Governor Brown's confidence in me to serve as our state's next chief law enforcement officer."

As Democratic caucus chairman, Becerra is the highest ranking Latino in Congress, where he has served since 1992. Brown's announcement noted that he was the first in his family to graduate from college, obtaining both bachelor of arts and law degrees from Stanford University.

Kousser noted that going to battle in the courtroom with the Trump administration over climate change and immigration will raise his profile both in California and nationally, which would help him if he wants to run for governor in 2018 or to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., when she decides to retire.

It also gives him a leg up against other rising Latino officials with ambition for higher office, including state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Becerra's replacement in his solidly Democratic district in Los Angeles would be picked via special election. His expected departure immediately set off speculation about his potential replacement. Former Assembly Speaker John Perez quickly announced he would seek the seat representing areas including downtown, Boyle Heights, Chinatown and Highland Park.

 
 

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