Capitol Alert

AM Alert: John A. Pérez endorses Kamala Harris, joins campaign as co-chair

Attorney General Kamala Harris with then-Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez at a Capitol press conference on Feb. 29, 2012.
Attorney General Kamala Harris with then-Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez at a Capitol press conference on Feb. 29, 2012. The Sacramento Bee file

Former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is endorsing Democrat Kamala Harris’ run for U.S. Senate, the campaign will announce today.

Pérez, a Los Angeles Democrat, also will be named co-chair of Harris’ bid to replace departing U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer next year, he told The Bee. He cited her work during the foreclosure crisis as well as her efforts to root out school truancy.

“When you look at the work she’s done both as attorney general and district attorney, she has proven herself to be a very tenacious leader, and she has proven to be one who is focused on core issues for middle class Californians,” Pérez said.

“When you are replacing a leader like Barbara Boxer, when you are looking for a partner for Dianne Feinstein, you want to make sure you have someone of Kamala’s thoughtfulness and her creativity.”

Harris said she is grateful to have the support of the speaker emeritus, calling him a tireless campaigner and adding, “My campaign will benefit greatly from his service as co-chair.”

Pérez becomes the latest prominent Latino official to line up behind Harris, who is beginning her second term as the state attorney general. Other early supporters include former California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

Pérez’s endorsement comes just a week after the former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa opted against a run for Senate. The two are cousins.

In backing Harris, Pérez is breaking with several current and former legislators who are urging a fellow Latino to run to ensure the Senate field reflects the diversity of the state. Some characterized the rush to fortify Harris’ support as a premature anointment arranged by Northern California elites.

Reps. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles, Adam Schiff of Burbank and Loretta Sanchez of Santa Ana are among the other Democrats considering bids.

While Harris remains the only major candidate to declare her entry into the race, Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, expects to issue a formal announcement about his campaign on Thursday.

VIDEO: The California Republican Party is trying to catch up to the state’s incredible diversity, Dan Walters says.

SANDRA’S NEW GIG: Sandra Fluke, the social justice attorney who mounted an unsuccessful run for the state Senate last year, has been named state director of the group Voice for Progress. A Tuesday email announcing the appointment described the group as a unique organization that advocates for a stable climate, robust democracy and economic opportunity for all. Fluke, known for her well-publicized spat with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh in which he called her a “slut,” said, “Voices recognizes that, as the world's seventh largest economy, California can provide a model for the states, the federal government, and even other countries.”

POLICY INSIGHTS DEBATE: The California Budget Project has snagged several current and former legislative leaders for its day-long Policy Insights conference, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Sacramento Convention Center. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins will discuss strategies for addressing poverty with state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, during a workshop at 2 p.m. The afternoon plenary will feature a conversation between former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Pérez on the policy choices likely to define California’s future.

FRESH ‘VERGARA’ DEBATE: A court ruling last June declaring California’s teacher tenure and dismissal policies unconstitutional galvanized political debate over education, particularly in the costly and contentious race for state superintendent of public instruction. While the Vergara case continues to wind its way through the courts, Assembly Republicans will attempt to bring the debate into the Legislature. They will introduce a package of bills extending the tenure timeline to at least three years and repealing the state’s seniority-based layoffs, among other changes to schools, 11 a.m. at the StudentsFirst headquarters on K Street.

DOCTORS’ RATE DEBATE: With state revenues expected to grow by several billion dollars through June 2016, everyone is hoping to benefit. State Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Azusa, and Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, will join with representatives for doctors, hospitals, health care workers and insurance companies to call for an increase to Medi-Cal payment rates, 9 a.m. at the south steps of the Capitol. The Association of Regional Center Agencies and other advocates for the developmentally disabled will rally for a 10 percent increase in funding for services, 11 a.m. on the north steps.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, who turns 47 today.

Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago. Alexei Koseff of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.