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San Diego Democrat Toni Atkins on track to be next Assembly speaker

Politics and GovernmentToni AtkinsJerry BrownKevin de LeonDarrell SteinbergBill Lockyer

SACRAMENTO -- Democratic Assemblywoman Toni Atkins of San Diego appears on track to be the next speaker of the Assembly.

Her election to the post would put Southern Californians in charge of both chambers of the Legislature for the first time in four decades.

State Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) is expected to become the Senate president pro tem later this year.

Atkins appears to have support from more than 30 Democratic members of the Assembly, enough votes to edge out others in the running, according to legislative sources not authorized to speak publicly about the contest. She was elected to the Assembly in 2010 after serving eight years on the San Diego City Council.

Last week, the Bay Area Council, a business group based in San Francisco, and other groups expressed concern about having Southern Californians leading both the Senate and Assembly. They noted that over the last 20 years, it has been a tradition for a Northern California lawmaker to lead one chamber and a Southern Californian to run the other.

The last time one region produced the head of both houses was 1995, when Democrat Bill Lockyer of San Leandro was Senate president pro tem and Willie Brown of San Francisco was the Assembly speaker, according to Greg Schmidt, secretary of the Senate.

Southern Californians last ran both houses in 1974, when Democrat James R. Mills of Coronado was at the helm of the Senate and Democrat Robert Moretti of Los Angeles led the Assembly, according to Schmidt.

Sacramento Democrat Darrell Steinberg is Senate president pro tem. The Assembly speaker is Los Angeles Democrat John A. Pérez. Term limits prevent both from seeking reelection.

Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses.

[Updated 4:23 p.m. PST Jan. 21: “Majority Leader Atkins has a great deal of support within the Democratic caucus -- support that includes my own -- to become the next Speaker of the Assembly,” Pérez said Tuesday afternoon. “There has not been a formal caucus vote yet. We will be discussing this in the near future and the appropriate announcement will be made at the end of those discussions, followed by a floor vote in the spring.”]

Atkins, originally from southwestern Virginia, lives in the South Park/Golden Hill community of San Diego with her spouse, Jennifer LaSar. She would become the second openly gay or lesbian speaker of the state Assembly, after Pérez.

[For the Record, 2:32 p.m. PST Jan. 21: The headline on an earlier version of this post misspelled Toni Atkins' first name as Tony.]

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Twitter: @melmason

melanie.mason@latimes.com

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