FIRST. Attorney General Rob Bonta, left, hugs his mother,
Cynthia Bonta, after he was sworn in as California’s 34th
Attorney General by governor Gavin Newsom during a ceremony on
April 23, 2021, in Sacramento, California. The Alameda Democrat
is the first Filipino American to hold the office. (Paul
Kitagaki Jr./The Sacramento Bee via AP, Pool)
From The Asian Reporter, V31, #5 (May 3, 2021), page 8.
California OKs first Filipino American as
By Don Thompson
The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers last month approved
the state’s first Filipino American to hold the top law
enforcement job in the nation’s most populous state, saying the
progressive Democrat is taking office during a critical debate
over racial justice and the changing role of police.
Rob Bonta becomes California’s second attorney general of
Asian descent, after Kamala Harris. Harris’ rise to U.S. senator
and now vice president illustrates the prominence of the job.
"It’s the right choice at the right time," said Democratic
senator Dave Min. "Our Asian-American community is experiencing
unprecedented levels of hate and violence. We’ve seen at the
same time that our state and nation are grappling with a wide
array of challenges on racial unrest, domestic terrorism, a
surge in gun violence, and the need for meaningful law
In March, governor Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, nominated
Bonta, 49, an assemblyman from the east San Francisco Bay Area
city of Alameda, to succeed Xavier Becerra. He resigned to
become the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary.
The assembly approved Bonta’s nomination on a 62-0 vote with
Republicans abstaining, while the senate followed on a 29-6
rollcall with three additional Republicans not voting.
GOP caucus chairwoman senator Patricia Bates said Republicans
remain concerned about Bonta’s progressive track record since he
was elected to the Assembly in 2012, but were reassured by his
promise "that he is very committed to a bipartisan role on
issues that do affect our constituents."
Republicans didn’t support his nomination, Bates said, "but
do want to recognize a commitment and a passion that he will
bring to this assignment, and we wish him well and we very much
look forward to working with him in the coming years."
Bonta will be up for election with other statewide officials
He takes office during a time of "a very strong examining of
our justice system and whether it has really truly been just,"
said Democratic senator Nancy Skinner.
Bonta will be responsible for enforcing laws that the
legislature has recently enacted "through the lens of racial
equity," Skinner said, including a law requiring his office to
investigate police shootings that result in the deaths of
Bonta said after his confirmation that he views the attorney
general as "the people’s attorney."
"To fight for everyday folks, the vulnerable, the voiceless,
the disadvantaged, those who need a champion, those who are
hurting, being abused, and to push back and fight back against
those in power who are overreaching that power or abusing that
power," he said. "That’s the job."