On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom selected Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) as the next California Attorney General. He will fill the seat vacated by Xavier Becerra.
Newsom said via Twitter that Rob Bonta will make history as the 1ast CA Filipino Attorney General and that he represents what makes California great in taking on righteous fights and reversing injustices.
“In this moment of sickening attacks on AAPI Californians there’s no one better to defend California values,” said Newsom.
In a tweet, the Office of the Governor said:
“As CA’s first Filipino Attorney General, @RobBontaCA will fight to reform our justice system & stand up to hate. He has led efforts to end cash bail, ban for-profit prisons, renter protections, and hate crime protections. He will be a staunch advocate for CA values.”
The California State Assembly and Senate will have to confirm Bonta within 90-days.
Governor Newsom to Submit Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s Nomination for Attorney General to the State Legislature
Newsom appoints Bonta, a national leader in the fight to reform our justice system & stand up to hate
Bonta has led first-in-the-nation efforts to end cash bail, ban for-profit prisons, protect renters from wrongful evictions and strengthen hate crime protections
Growing up in a family steeped in social justice movements, Bonta will make history as California’s first Filipino Attorney General
SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that he will submit to the State Legislature the nomination of Alameda Assemblymember Rob Bonta as the next California Attorney General, filling the seat vacated by Xavier Becerra, who was recently sworn in as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the California State Assembly and Senate within 90 days.
Bonta will become the first Filipino American to serve as California Attorney General. Throughout his career in public service, Assemblymember Bonta has taken on big fights to reverse historic injustice – many affecting communities of color. He has been a leader in the fight to reform our justice system and stand up to the forces of hate.
“Rob represents what makes California great – our desire to take on righteous fights and reverse systematic injustices,” said Governor Newsom. “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. And most importantly, at this moment when so many communities are under attack for who they are and who they love, Rob has fought to strengthen hate crime laws and protect our communities from the forces of hate. He will be a phenomenal Attorney General, and I can’t wait to see him get to work.”
Assemblymember Rob Bonta was elected to the California State Assembly’s 18th District in 2012, where he represents the cities of Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro. He became the first Filipino American state legislator in California’s then 160-plus-year history.
“Thank you, Governor. I am humbled by the confidence you have placed in me,” said Bonta. “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. As California’s Attorney General, I will work tirelessly every day to ensure that every Californian who has been wronged can find justice and that every person is treated fairly under the law.”
Governor Newsom made the announcement at the historic International Hotel in San Francisco, a site where Asian and Pacific Islander Californians famously rallied in 1977 to save homes of elderly residents and preserve their community. The protests helped fuel a rise in AAPI political activism. Bonta’s mother, who helped organize the protest at the International Hotel, was on hand today to witness the Governor making his selection.
A child of social justice movements, Rob Bonta’s fight for justice is hardwired in his DNA.
Bonta grew up the son of activists. His mother, Cynthia, a proud Filipina, immigrated to California in the 1960s by a three-week boat ride. His father, Warren, who grew up in Ventura County, was committed to service and social justice from a young age. As a student, Warren joined Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights organizing in Alabama to pass the Voting Rights Act. Warren and Cynthia were working as missionaries in the Philippines when Rob was born, training young people to serve the needs of rural Philippine villages through service, community organizing and ministry.
Shortly after leaving the Philippines, the Bontas moved to a trailer in La Paz, in the Tehachapi Mountains outside Bakersfield and served in the headquarters for the United Farm Workers movement. Rob’s parents worked alongside Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Philip Veracruz, organizing Latino and Filipino farmworkers for racial, economic and civil rights. His dad worked in the front office and helped set up health clinics for the farmworkers, while his mother worked at the daycare, Casa de Nana, to support farmworker organizer families. Rob’s padrino, or godfather, Jose Gomez, was the Executive Assistant to Cesar Chavez.
It was here in La Paz, surrounded by other UFW families, that Rob’s parents gave him his first lessons in right and wrong and taught him that everyone had an obligation to speak out when another person is treated unfairly.
Growing up, Bonta had been inspired by characters like Atticus Finch in “To Kill A Mockingbird” to pursue justice through the law, and reflecting on the stories of the farmworkers his family had known only strengthened that resolve. Throughout college and in his community work, he saw injustice and the power to right wrongs through the law, and after college, he was accepted to Yale Law School. It was also at Yale that he met his wife Mia, who he calls “his partner in life and in service.”
After law school, Bonta moved back to California and went into private practice, working pro-bono to protect Californians from exploitation and racial profiling. A few years later, Bonta decided to pursue his passion for public service and put his legal experience to work to help his community full-time. Bonta served nine years as a Deputy City Attorney in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, representing the city and its employees, before running for local office in Alameda County.
At the State Capitol, Bonta passed major reforms that reversed long-standing injustices.
In 2012, Bonta became the first Filipino American in California history to win election to the Legislature, representing Assembly District 18 in the cities of Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro. He quickly became a statewide leader in the fights for racial, economic and environmental justice, advancing reforms that put California on the cutting edge. In the Legislature, Bonta:
Outlawed For-Profit Prisons in California: Bonta authored legislation that made California the first in the nation to ban for-profit prisons and immigration detention centers.
Led Major Sentencing Overhaul Effort: Following statewide marijuana legalization, Bonta authored the California law to automatically expunge and modify criminal records for people convicted of minor marijuana charges.
Took on Big Polluters: Bonta authored major environmental justice legislation and has been a leader in the fight against climate change and to ensure every community equitably benefits from our green economy.
Passed Nation’s Strongest Statewide Renter Protections: Bonta led the fight to pass statewide protections for renters, ultimately resulting in the nation’s strongest protections against wrongful evictions.
Fought to Strengthen Hate Crime Laws & Protect Communities: Bonta has introduced a number of bills to improve hate crime statutes, support victims of hate violence, and build bridges between law enforcement and targeted communities.
Protected Immigrant Families from Deceptive ICE Tactics: Bonta authored first-of-its-kind legislation requiring immigrants to be informed of their rights before speaking to ICE agents.
Sought to End Predatory Bail Laws: Bonta co-wrote the law that sought to end the racist and predatory for-profit bail system.
Required Independent Investigations of Unarmed Deaths: Bonta co-authored the law that required an independent investigation when there is a death of an unarmed civilian by law enforcement.
The Bontas live in the East Bay with their three children and dog Lego.
Bio via his Assembly website:
Assemblymember Rob Bonta was elected to the California State Assembly’s 18th District in 2012, where he represents the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro. He became the first Filipino American state legislator in California’s then 160-plus-year history.
Rob’s passion for opportunity and equality was instilled in him at a very young age by his parents, who taught him to understand injustice and the importance of joining the struggle to empower vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. His father was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, and stood with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Deep South—marching for equality and justice in Selma. His mother was and continues to be a long-time leader in the Filipino social justice movement.
Growing up in a trailer a stone’s throw away from César Chávez’s home, Bonta watched closely as his parents worked for the United Farm Workers of America and organized Filipino and Mexican American farm workers, infusing his formative years with first-hand experience of one of the greatest peaceful social, racial, and economic justice movements of all time. This had a huge impact on Rob’s life choices and pursuits, inspiring his life’s commitment to helping people.
Rob believed legal training was one of the most powerful ways to effect positive change in the lives of those who needed it most. He worked his way through college cleaning laundry rooms and, with the help of financial aid, was able to achieve his dream of going to college and law school, obtaining his Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School after attending Yale College and Oxford University in England. Earning honors in college, Rob was also a scholar athlete, captaining the Yale Soccer team. He also paved the way for the advancement of students of color as a mentor and worked with children and families in nearby public housing neighborhoods.
His legal career included work as a Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, where he represented the City and County and its employees, and as a private attorney, where he fought to protect Californians from exploitation and racial profiling. Rob was undefeated at trial, never losing a jury verdict for his clients.
Rob began his career as a publicly-elected official at the local level, first as a Director of the Alameda Health Care District and later as Vice Mayor of the City of Alameda.
In the State Assembly, Bonta currently serves as the Assistant Majority Leader. He serves on the Appropriations, Communications and Conveyance, Governmental Organization, and Health Committees.
He has authored significant legislation that promotes and defends our California values of Justice, Inclusion, Equity and Opportunity.
The legislation includes:
AB 1482, a landmark legislative victory for tenants in California. The 2019 legislation banned outrageous rent increases and unjust evictions and is considered the most impactful bill for tenants ever to become law. It came at a critical moment as tenants have suffered– many living in fear that they are just one rent-gouging increase or one discriminatory, retaliatory, or arbitrary eviction notice away from losing their home. AB 1482 impacts people in a way that is profound and protects people’s homes- the very place where they should feel safe and where their families and children must feel safe.
AB 32: Assemblymember Bonta authored historic, first-in-the-nation legislation to end the use of for-profit, private prisons and detention facilities in California. The companies that operate these facilities are incentivized to maximize profits and minimize costs – including the important “costs” of investments in programs, services and rehabilitation efforts that reduce recidivism rates and increase success for Californians upon their reentry into society. Bonta says these Wall Street-owned for-profit, private facilities inhumanely treat people as commodities and stresses that no human being deserves to be held in the well-documented cruel conditions seen in these facilities.
The TRUTH Act, which stands up for, defends, and protects our immigrant neighbors. Signed into law in 2016, it requires immigrants be informed of their rights before speaking with ICE agents. It also mandates that local law enforcement hold a public forum to discuss their immigration policies, and makes all ICE-related records and data subject to the Public Records Act.
AB 72 from 2016 provides critical consumer protection from Surprise Medical Bills. A patient can receive a surprise bill even after they’ve done everything right and selected an in-network provider. Unbeknownst to the patient, a specialist who is not in his or her insurance’s network will provide treatment. The patient has no way of knowing that provider is out-of-network until a bill shows up. Ab 72 outlawed the practice of what the industry calls “balance billing” in these circumstances and now consumers who did everything right are protected from getting hit with a surprise bill.
AB 266, the Medical Cannabis Regulation & Safety Act, was a historic California cannabis policy bill. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis. But for almost 20 years, the legislature could not agree on a comprehensive set of regulations. Bonta, along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, brought various stakeholders together to create a set of regulations that ensured patient and consumer safety, gave law enforcement foundational tools to fight impaired driving, protected children from cannabis marketing, and safeguarded the environment from harmful cultivation practices.
AB 1469 in 2014 ensured that California’s hard-working teachers receive the retirement benefits they’ve been promised. This bill tackled California’s largest unfunded liability head-on with a shared responsibility approach that created a permanent, on-going funding solution that will achieve full funding for teacher retirement.
The Buy Clean California Act, passed in 2017, was a first-of-its-kind environmental bill to fight climate change, the existential threat of our time, and close a large carbon loophole. With Buy Clean, California will put its money where its environmental values are and begin to purchase environmentally clean products for public building projects. This law was supported by a coalition of environmental, labor and industry groups– all working together to protect our future, and our values and was recently featured during the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in 2018.
In 2018, California passed historic bail reform, SB 10, to end an unfair, unsafe, predatory, for-profit money bail system and replace it with a system that’s safer and fairer. SB 10, which Bonta co-authored with his colleague Senator Bob Hertzberg, will implement a system based on an individual’s risk and not on their wealth. Justice should never favor the wealthy and punish the poor. But for too long, the California criminal justice system has treated people who are “guilty and rich” better than people who are “poor and innocent.” All Californians deserve justice and we should never have a justice system that is pay-to-play, a jail house door that opens and closes based on the size of one’s wallet instead of the size of one’s risk, or a practice that punishes poor people for being poor!
Rob and his wife Mialisa live in Alameda with their three children.