Capitol Alert

How Jerry Brown came to appoint Xavier Becerra attorney general

Gov. Jerry Brown’s surprise selection of Democrat Xavier Becerra for state attorney general came into sharper focus after the election of Donald Trump as president – when administration officials said they saw the veteran congressman as more likely to accept the position.

While Brown aides began pursuing Becerra after Trump’s win on Nov. 8, putting him on the short list of top contenders, it wasn’t until this week that Becerra began talking with the governor himself, whom he did not know well.

A Brown official, speaking on background, said it was those conversations, in which Becerra was able to convey a level of smarts and political savvy reflected in his resume, that convinced Brown he was right for the job.

Though Brown could have made his decision when U.S. Sen.-elect Kamala Harris formally leaves the attorney general’s office, congressional leadership wrangling essentially meant the governor had to move more quickly. Becerra, preparing to vie for the top Democratic post on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, would have needed to begin whipping votes from colleagues.

Brown announced his choice Thursday, citing Becerra’s experience in the state Legislature, Congress and as a deputy attorney general. “I’m confident he will be a champion for all Californians and help our state aggressively combat climate change,” Brown said.

The other potential nominees were informed Thursday morning that they were not chosen.

In a conference call with reporters, Becerra deflected a question about standing for election in 2018, when Harris’ second term ends. The Brown official said there was no agreement or understanding that Becerra seek the seat, but they noted that the congressman said he first must be confirmed by the state Legislature, and isn’t taking anything for granted. Becerra is expected to be confirmed.

The Brown official also stressed that in choosing Becerra, Brown was tapping someone with the potential and presumably the interest to hold the seat for a decade.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago