Rob Bonta, the first Filipino American to serve in the California Legislature, was appointed state attorney general on Wednesday, filling the vacancy created by Xavier Becerra, who left to join President Joe Biden’s administration.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the appointment in a news release. ““Rob represents what makes California great – our desire to take on righteous fights and reverse systematic injustices,” Newsom said.
Bonta, 48, if confirmed by the Legislature, will be the first Asian American to hold the attorney general’s job, considered the most important statewide office in California after the governor.
Bonta, who was born in the Philippines and came to the U.S. when he was two months old, first lived near Keene in Kern County, then moved north to suburban Sacramento.
For Newsom, the appointment of Bonta marked an unprecedented trifecta: The governor filled the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Kamala Harris, now vice president, when he appointed Secretary of State Alex Padilla to take her place. He then named Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego to take Padilla’s place as secretary of state, the office that supervises California’s elections.
Bonta, an attorney trained at Oxford University and the Yale Law School, was elected to the Assembly in 2012, representing the heavily Democratic 18th District. He sits on the Appropriations and Governmental Organization committees, and is a member of the Legislature’s 11-member Asian and Pacific Islander Caucus. He is virtually unknown outside the San Francisco Bay area.
Newsom gave little indication beforehand who he would appoint.
Media speculation focused on Bonta, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, the former state Senate leader; and Goodwin Liu, an associate justice of the state Supreme Court and, like Bonta, attended Oxford and the Yale Law School.
For Bonta, the leap to attorney general is a huge step. The attorney general represents the state in litigation, supervises the state Department of Justice, intervenes in local legal battles on merits, regulates charities, and protects civil rights – among myriad other functions. The department has about 4,500 employees.
Bonta’s appointment requires confirmation both houses of the Legislature.