Capitol Alert

Connie Leyva’s in, as senators jockey for Kevin de León’s powerful job

State Sen. Connie Leyva talks with Sen. Mike McGuire at the state Capitol, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif.
State Sen. Connie Leyva talks with Sen. Mike McGuire at the state Capitol, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. AP

With Senate leader Kevin de León terming out at the end of next year, jockeying for his powerful job is intensifying.

On Friday, Connie Leyva became the first to formally announce her intention to run for the Senate’s pro tem position.

“I think it’s time for a woman,” Leyva said in an interview with The Bee. “I exhibit the qualities of a leader and I look forward to working with all of my colleagues in a leadership role if they choose me.”

The agenda-setting role of president pro tem comes with several responsibilities, including quarterbacking elections for Senate Democrats and defending freshman Sen. Josh Newman from a recall attempt. Pro tems are central to budget and policy negotiations with the governor and Assembly speaker. Since the election of President Donald Trump, de León has used the post to position California as a leader in the resistance movement on issues as varied as addressing climate change and shielding immigrants from deportation.

Other Democrats considered possible successors to de León include Sens. Toni Atkins, Bob Hertzberg and Holly Mitchell. Atkins and Hertzberg are both former Assembly speakers. Sens. Nancy Skinner and Ben Allen also have been mentioned.

Atkins declined to comment when asked by The Bee, while Hertzberg said in a brief interview that it was much too soon to talk about the prospects. He added that de León has done an exemplary job.

Mitchell, chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, issued a prepared statement.

“While I appreciate that my name continues to be among those considered as the Senate’s next pro tem, I must say that right now I’m focused on getting through this final day of the legislative session,” she said Friday. “The fact that we’re still in session underscores how it’s early in the process to declare a candidacy.”

Mitchell added: “I think it’s important to carefully consider the timing of a decision, the commitment required, the values of our Democratic Party and what it takes to collectively move California forward.”

Leyva said her time as president of the California Labor Federation and head of the grocery worker union United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1428 before that provided valuable experience for the role. She said she intends to continue to focus on women’s issues and helping working families. She also commended de León, whose own political future is very much in the air.

“Candidly, I would want to build off his work and his legacy. He’s done a fabulous job of keeping the caucus together and working together.”

Leyva hasn’t hid her desire to be pro tem. She’s met privately with all of the other senators. She admitted that she won’t know which lawmakers are officially on her side until the day of the vote.

“I’m a straight shooter. It’s who I am,” Leyva said. “I don’t pull any punches, and I don’t want people to be surprised by this.”

All of the uncertainty, and the long list of colleagues who covet the position, likely helps de León stay in the job longer. De León and several aides have been saying for months that no future post is off the table, leaving him several options – from governor to U.S. Senate to lieutenant governor to the private sector – as the June primary draws closer.

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GLOBE-TROTTING GOVERNOR: Jerry Brown is in New York for events connected to Climate Week NYC 2017, the 72nd regular session of the United Nations General Assembly. Later, he heads to the Yale Climate Conference in New Haven, Conn., before traveling to Quebec City, Canada, where he’ll meet with the premiers of Quebec and Ontario. The trip represents a continuation of the 79-year-old governor’s globe-trotting in recent years, including to China and Russia. He returns to Europe later this year for climate talks.

VOTER ED: Secretary of State Alex Padilla begins High School Voter Education Weeks with a visit to Franklin High School in Los Angeles.

WORTH REPEATING: “It’s all good now.” – Kevin de León, describing his takeaway after telling Tesla founder Elon Musk that Democrats in the Legislature were siding with organized labor against him.

CELEBRATE: Happy belayed b-day to Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Arcadia, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, and Assemblyman Tim Grayson, D-Concord.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago