The California Assembly voted overwhelmingly Friday to confirm Rep. Xavier Becerra as the next state attorney general.
Becerra, a Los Angeles Democrat nominated to replace the newly elected U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, was approved on a 56-23 vote, earning the support of all Assembly Democrats and one Republican. His nomination will be considered in the state Senate next week.
Lawmakers largely praised Becerra as a champion of inclusion for minorities, immigrants and the gay community. Echoing rhetoric that has surrounded Becerra since Gov. Jerry Brown nominated him last month, they expressed hope that he would act as a “last line of defense” for progressive California values against the incoming Trump administration.
“The national political conversation has left many communities feeling that the country they love so much may turn its back on them,” Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes, D-Grand Terrace, said. “California needs a fighter – a fighter that will defend the rights of those without the means to fight for themselves.”
Some Republicans objected to Becerra, pointing to comments about religious liberty and gun rights from his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that they said showed a lack of respect for all Californians’ constitutional rights. Becerra made a distinction between freedom of religion protections for individuals and institutions under the First Amendment, and defended the state’s strict firearms regulations.
Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, said Becerra was threatening to overstep his role by fighting the federal government on policies that are “within its proper sphere of action.”
“Congressman Becerra seems to be more committed to fighting for the political priorities of the liberal elite than those of ordinary Californians,” Allen said.
But Democrats pushed back at the criticism as nakedly political and without merit.
“I find it interesting that people talk about him as being an elitist individual, when freedom and justice and what is right and the defense of our Constitution and each and every one of us is not an elitist concept,” Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, said. “I saw in him a person that understands the complexity of life.”
Rocky Chávez of Oceanside was the sole Republican to vote for Becerra’s confirmation. In a statement, he said he was “unable to find any ethical or immoral actions that would disqualify him as a candidate.”
“This is a time to rise above partisan politics and try and work together with our new attorney general,” he said.