California Gov. Gavin Newsom nominated Rob Bonta to be the state’s next attorney general, which would make Bonta, a Democratic state Assembly member, the first Filipino American to hold the post.
“Rob represents what makes California great — our desire to take on righteous fights and reverse systematic injustices,” Newsom, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Growing up with parents steeped in social justice movements, Rob has become a national leader in the fight to repair our justice system and defend the rights of every Californian.”
The post became vacant when the Biden administration nominated Xavier Becerra to be health and human services secretary.
Bonta’s nomination was pushed heavily by proponents of criminal justice reform, Asian American groups and progressive advocates. He led efforts in the state to end cash bail, ban for-profit prisons and strengthen hate crime laws, among other topics, Newsom said.
There has been a renewed focus on the lack of Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in positions of power amid a rise in anti-Asian American hate incidents during the coronavirus pandemic and after a gunman in Georgia killed eight people, six of whom were Asian American, in a string of spa shootings.
Sixteen percent of the state’s population identifies as Asian American or Pacific Islander, according to census data. Bonta, the child of local activists, was also the first Filipino American state legislator in California’s history when he was elected to the Assembly in 2012. Vice President Kamala Harris, who is of South Asian descent, also held the post.
“I became a lawyer because I saw the law as the best way to make a positive difference for the most people, and it would be an honor of a lifetime to serve as the attorney for the people of this great state,” Bonta said in a statement.