California Senate President Kevin de León is officially embracing a side of his ancestry he rarely talks about.
A week after The Sacramento Bee published a story about de León’s Asian heritage, he accepted an invitation Tuesday to formally join the California Asian and Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. The group, originally sanctioned in 2001, advocates for the interests of the state’s growing API community.
De León , D-Los Angeles, said he was approached by caucus members after The Bee revealed that his birth records list the race of his Guatemala-born father as Chinese. De León’s late mother also was born in Guatemala, and he is a longtime member of the influential California Latino Legislative Caucus.
“I got numerous phone calls from members of the caucus who were very, very welcoming and really wanted me to come,” de León said in an interview following the API legislative caucus meeting. “I was both excited and humbled at how welcoming” the members were.
He said he was accompanied Tuesday by his policy director, Lisa Chin, who is Chinese American, and later pointed out that his political director, Courtni Pugh, is Korean American. De León also talked with the group about his district, which includes Koreatown, Thaitown, Filipinotown, Little Tokyo and Little Bangladesh.
Asked if he would help with political activities, including fundraising, de León said he doesn’t know the extent he’ll be involved, but added “I want to be helpful.”
Jerome Parra, a spokesman for Assemblyman Rob Bonta, chairman of the caucus and the Legislature’s first Filipino American, said de León is believed to be the first Senate leader to serve in the API legislative caucus.
“Everybody is really happy about him coming over,” Parra said. “My member (Bonta) described him as being very enthusiastic.”