In a surprise move, California Governor Jerry Brown has selected Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) to become the state’s next attorney general when Kamala Harris leaves the post to become the state’s next US Senator.
A list of possible nominees had been circulating among the state’s political watchers for over a month in anticipation of Harris’ victory in the November general election, but Becerra’s name was not among them. The conventional wisdom was that Brown would select someone who would act as more of a placeholder until the 2018 elections.
By choosing Becerra, Brown is bringing home one of the most powerful voices the state has in Congress. He’s currently the House Democratic Caucus Chair and was making a bid to become the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Becerra’s power in Congress is limited, though, since he’s not part of the majority party. As California attorney general, he will have a much greater ability to affect the daily lives of Californians. He will have broad investigatory authority as the state’s top law enforcement officer, something his predecessor used to punish political enemies (such as when she ordered a raid on the home of David Daleiden, who was behind the Planned Parenthood videos).
His office will also be responsible for promulgating regulations that will dictate how legislation is interpreted and enforced. For example, when California lawmakers passed the “Gunpocalypse” bills during the last session, many of the specifics were to be determined by DOJ regulations. Those regulations have not been released at this time, leaving gun owners, gun dealers, and law enforcement unsure exactly what the law means.
This summer, Becerra was one of the leaders of the #NoBillNoBreak sit-in, demanding a vote on the No Fly/No Buy gun control legislation.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Becerra was a staunch Hillary Clinton ally and rumored to be under consideration to become her VP pick. He spoke at the Democratic National Convention about his immigrant roots, and about the threat he believed Donald Trump posed to the Mexican immigrant community.
He also defended Clinton’s handling of classified information, appearing on Fox News Sunday wrongly claiming that FBI Director Comey concluded that Hillary had no knowledge she was sending or receiving classified information through her private server.
Becerra, 58, is a graduate of Stanford Law School and has represented an area near downtown Los Angeles in Congress for 12 terms.