Capitol Alert

De León underscores, emphasizes his leadership of California Senate

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León urges lawmakers to approve his gun-control bill, SB1235, on May 19, 2016.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León urges lawmakers to approve his gun-control bill, SB1235, on May 19, 2016. The Associated Press

Whether in a floor speech, an interview or a press conference, you’re likely to hear California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León “underscore and emphasize” a point.

For Spanish-speaking audiences, he’s prone to enfatizar y subrayar. And sometimes he’ll just let the repetition stress the significance of the matter for him.

“All the Negative Nellies, the Debbie Downers and the Joe Nos, and the predictors of doom and peril, all said that this would destroy the economy,” he noted in a discussion last June with Real Clear Politics about California’s aggressive environmental policies.

A few months later, on a Univision program about climate change, de León told viewers that the state had a responsibility “to reduce, to fight, counteract, the alarming and dangerous high index of carbon and other types of toxic and poisonous contaminants that our children breathe into their lungs every day.”

His verbosity is such a signature that it even became fodder for last week’s charity roast of de León, including an extended riff by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, that had the audience roaring.

“As everyone knows, we are both renowned for being brief when we make speeches,” she joked. “KDL, the fact that you are so brief when you make speeches is a fact that I would like to underline, emphasize, bold, italicize, super size, copy and paste, and put into Excel.”

“And you are the best Pro Tem, Senate leader, head honcho, top dog on the red carpet,” she concluded. “May I emphasize that if you will?”

De León took the jibe in stride: “I want to emphasize and italicize and bold and highlight and underscore to each and every one of your here tonight,” he riffed, “I want to thank you.”

In an interview Monday, he called the joke accurate. Though he couldn’t remember where the “underscore and emphasize” quirk originated, de León said it was simply his way to accentuate something he feels “deeply, personally strongly about.”

“Sometimes I can be rather loquacious,” he said. “Truth be told, I may go overboard.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff