Essential California: Meet your new state attorney general

Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda)
Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) will soon be California’s next attorney general, if confirmed by the Legislature.
(Alexis Cuarezma / For The Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, March 25, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has repeatedly played political kingmaker in recent months, appointing candidates to fill high-profile vacancies amid great pressure to appease various constituencies.

Having already appointed a senator (former Secretary of State Alex Padilla) and a secretary of state (former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber), Newsom was tasked with his third major political appointment in recent months, when former California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra was confirmed last week as the next U.S. Health and Human Services secretary.

On Wednesday, Newsom appointed leading criminal justice reform advocate Assemblyman Rob Bonta as the state’s next attorney general. If confirmed by the state Legislature, Bonta will be the first Filipino American to serve as California attorney general.


[Read the story: “Rob Bonta named California attorney general, would be first Filipino American in role” in the Los Angeles Times]

The prominent statewide role is often seen as a springboard to higher aspirations. Several well-known politicians (and their allies) were among those said to be lobbying Newsom for the role, including Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank. The position is next up for election in 2022.

As my colleagues Patrick McGreevy and Phil Willon report, Bonta’s appointment comes days after elected officials from California’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities called on Newsom to appoint an attorney general of Asian descent who would address incidents in which Asian Americans have been targeted for racist attacks. Approximately a third of Asian Americans live in California, according to the Pew Research Center.

Amid an ongoing power struggle over the future of criminal justice reform in California, Newsom has chosen a top law enforcement officer for the state who is decidedly progressive. Bonta has campaigned to abolish the death penalty and eliminate cash bail for many offenses. His appointment was praised by activists such as Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza and the “progressive prosecutor” district attorneys of Los Angeles and San Francisco, George Gascón and Chesa Boudin.

“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,” Newsom said Wednesday.

Bonta, who was born in the Philippines and emigrated to California as a baby, spent part of his early childhood in the Tehachapi Mountains outside Bakersfield, where his civil rights activist parents worked as organizers for the United Farm Workers of America.


The East Bay resident was first elected to the state Assembly in 2012, where he represents a Bay Area district that includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro. Before that, he served as a deputy city attorney in San Francisco for almost a decade as well as holding local elected office in Alameda.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Echo Park becomes a crucible of the city’s homeless policies as LAPD crackdown begins: Scores of police moved into the Echo Park area late Wednesday night to close the park and evict an encampment that’s become a flashpoint in the city’s homelessness crisis. Police clashed with hundreds of protesters at the scene and officers allowed the encampment residents to stay through the night, but gave them 24 hours to leave. Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles now has a road map for 100% renewable energy: L.A. is one of the last places in California still burning coal for electricity — and if all goes according to plan, it could become one of the country’s first major cities to nearly eliminate fossil fuels from its power supply. Los Angeles Times

Fifteen lovely outdoor dining rooms in Los Angeles: From woodsy patios in Calabasas to downtown views of the skyline, here are some of Eater’s favorite outdoor dining patios in Los Angeles. Eater LA

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President Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead diplomatic efforts to stem the growing influx of migrants crossing the border with Mexico, handing her one of the administration’s thorniest issues. Los Angeles Times


Tips on how to see Southern California’s elusive bioluminescent neon waves: “The biggest question about the mysterious bioluminescence that makes the surf glow a neon blue is where will it show up next?” Orange County Register


L.A.’s biggest quake threat sits on an overlooked part of the San Andreas, according to a new study. But there could be a silver lining to the news — experts say it’s possible that when the Big One hits, it may not do quite as much damage to the region as some scientists previously feared. Los Angeles Times

A new generation hopes to turn activism to fight Asian hate into a sustained movement: Ellen Wu, the director of the Asian American studies program at Indiana University Bloomington, called the current movement against anti-Asian violence unprecedented. Los Angeles Times

A younger woman and an older woman (with her first raised) standing outside
Two generations of activists: Miya Iwataki, right, and her niece Ana Iwataki.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Columnist Erika Smith writes about the current moment of solidarity between Black and Asian American activists and the “long overdue self-reflection going on about exactly who does and does not benefit from white supremacy.” Los Angeles Times


From the annals of unlikely virality: This Bay Area man fixes carpets for a living — and has 500,000 followers on TikTok. SFGATE

A poem to start your Thursday: “Inwardly” by Jenny Xie.

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Los Angeles: cheerless and gray (don’t shoot the messenger), 61. San Diego: potential showers, 61. San Francisco: sunny in San Francisco of all places, 59. San Jose: largely cloudy, 61. Fresno: mostly cloudy, 64. Sacramento: the sun stages a comeback, 66.


Today’s California memory comes from Anne Harper:

As a young lawyer, I moved to California in 1993. My first day, I was on my way to study for the bar exam at UC Berkeley when I stopped for coffee at Caffé Strada. I soon realized the two women in line ahead of me were completely naked except for their shoes. I looked around, expecting to see others as shocked as I was, but no one batted an eye. When I finally got up to the cashier, I had to ask, “There’s no problem serving naked people?” “Well,” she said, “I do wish they wouldn’t keep their money in their shoes.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)


Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.