SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that he was nominating East Bay Assemblyman Rob Bonta to the role of California Attorney General.
The post was left vacant when Xavier Becerra moved on to become the Health and Human Services Secretary in the Biden cabinet.
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If approved by the state legislature, Bonta would become the first Filipino American to ever hold the position of attorney general.
“Rob represents what makes California great – our desire to take on righteous fights and reverse systematic injustices,” Newsom said in a prepared statement. “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.”
Bonta also has a long history of fashioning legislation that has targeted hate crimes. He introduced a number of bills to improve hate crime statutes, support victims of hate violence, and build bridges between law enforcement and targeted communities.
“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,” Newsom said.
Bonta said was humbled by Newsom’s announcement.
“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,” he said. “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.”
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Bonta was elected to the Assembly’s 18th District in 2012 where he represents Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro. He became the first Filipino American state legislator in California history.
He grew up the son of activists. His mother, Cynthia, immigrated to California in the 1960s and his father, Warren, who grew up in Ventura County and was committed to service and social justice from a young age.
Warren and Cynthia were working as missionaries in the Philippines when Rob was born. Shortly after leaving the Philippines, the Bontas moved to a trailer in La Paz, in the Tehachapi Mountains outside Bakersfield and served in the headquarters for the United Farm Workers movement.
Rob’s parents worked alongside Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Philip Veracruz, organizing Latino and Filipino farmworkers for racial, economic and civil rights.
Growing up, Bonta said he was inspired by characters like Atticus Finch in “To Kill A Mockingbird” to pursue justice through the law.
After law school at Yale, Bonta moved back to California and went into private practice, working pro-bono to protect Californians from exploitation and racial profiling.
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Bonta served for nine years as a deputy city attorney in the San Francisco. He then decided to pursue a political career and was elected to his current position in the State Assembly.