Capitol Alert

Becerra’s attorney general selection sets off scurry for House replacement

Former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is the first candidate to announce he will run for Congressman Xavier Becerra’s Los Angeles seat.
Former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is the first candidate to announce he will run for Congressman Xavier Becerra’s Los Angeles seat. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

It didn’t take long after Xavier Becerra was selected as California’s next attorney general for the race to succeed him to begin.

Less than an hour after Gov. Jerry Brown announced Thursday morning that the Democratic congressman from Los Angeles would take over for Attorney General Kamala Harris when she heads to the U.S. Senate next year, the first candidate emerged for this rare open House seat: former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.

“I’m running for Congress to take these California values and our state’s visionary approach to the national level,” Pérez said in a statement. “California needs leadership who will stand up against Donald Trump, but also leadership that will fight for the poor, the middle class, for job creation, and for a vision that can help us win all across the country.”

Within hours, he had rolled out his first string of endorsements, including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and state Controller Betty Yee.

Pérez, a Democrat, served six years in the Assembly, including four as speaker, before narrowly losing the controller election to Yee in 2014. He was appointed by Brown to the University of California governing board later that year, where he has been a critic of proposals to raise tuition.

Becerra’s seat, the 34th Congressional District, covers the area around downtown Los Angeles and is heavily Democratic and nearly two-thirds Latino. It overlaps with districts represented by several state and local politicians that could also seek the office, including Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and Los Angeles City Councilmen Jose Huizar and Gil Cedillo, who spent 14 years in the Legislature.

Gomez said in a tweet Friday that he was considering running, but “I am having conversations with my family and supporters before making a final decision.” Huizar’s spokesman said Thursday that he needed to discuss the possibility with his wife, while an aide for Cedillo said he remained focused on reelection to the city council in March, but that he was still exploring all of his options.

State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, who is termed out in 2018, decided Thursday that he would not run. In a statement congratulating Becerra, de León said, “I look forward to working with him side-by-side to defend California’s progress every day for the next two years.”

Sen. Holly Mitchell, a liberal stalwart in the Legislature, also told The Bee Friday morning that she was not running and had already endorsed Pérez’s campaign.

Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, grew up in Sacramento, the son of Mexican immigrants. He was in Sacramento visiting them in June 2016 and stopped by the Ambrosia coffee shop, where he discussed Donald Trump's attack on U.S. District Judge Gonz

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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