Your guide to the California attorney general election: Rob Bonta vs. Nathan Hochman

Attorney general candidates Rob Bonta, left, and Nathan Hochman.
(Los Angeles Times/Handout)

Democratic incumbent Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta will face Republican Nathan Hochman in the contest for California’s top cop, a position responsible not only for increasing public safety but also defending state laws on gun control and abortion access.

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Bonta, a former state lawmaker from Alameda, as California’s first Filipino American attorney general last year. Hochman is a former U.S. assistant attorney general and assistant U.S. attorney with an array of experience in the courtroom.

As California’s top law enforcement officer, the attorney general oversees investigations into deadly police shootings and organized crime rings and runs the state’s forensic crime labs. The office is also charged with helping the state meet its climate and housing goals by enforcing environmental regulations and holding local governments accountable to production requirements.


The state attorney general is one of the most important statewide offices in California. The role has become even more prominent in the wake of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions this summer that rolled back broad access to abortion and strict gun control policies, key issues that are likely to be top of mind for California voters as they head to the polls on Nov. 8.

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Who are the candidates?

Before he was elected to the state Assembly in 2012, Bonta served as a deputy city attorney in San Francisco and vice mayor for the city of Alameda. As a state lawmaker, Bonta earned a reputation for his left-leaning legislative record and support for criminal justice reform policies, which include bills to phase out private prisons and detention facilities in California and to eliminate cash bail.

Since taking the helm of the state Department of Justice, Bonta has focused on prosecuting hate crimes, launched a program last year to apprehend human traffickers and cracked down on organized retail theft.

Bonta said that public safety is “priority and job number one, two and three,” but he’s faced pushback for laws he supported that his critics blame for an increase in certain crimes and the drug addiction crisis.

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Hochman has focused his campaign on rebalancing criminal justice policies he said have swung too far to the left. He said he wants to “bring safety and security back to California” by increasing penalties for fentanyl dealers and through a statewide task force on human trafficking.

Hochman said his message appeals to Democrats and independents who want an attorney general in the “hard-middle” of the political spectrum and who’ve grown weary of California’s commitment to criminal justice reform efforts that he said have jeopardized public safety.


His résumé includes experience as both a federal prosecutor and defense attorney, skills he said would serve him well as California’s top law enforcement officer. Hochman has blasted Bonta’s lack of experience as a prosecutor as evidence that he’s the better fit for the job.

Bonta secured 54.3% of the vote in the June 7 primary, compared with Hochman’s 18.2%, and is favored to win a full four-year term to the job.


Where Bonta stands on guns and abortion

Bonta has prioritized gun violence prevention during his tenure as attorney general with a new office to “implement strategic and innovative programs” that lower the risk of firearm-related deaths.

He also sponsored legislation this year to establish a “firearm industry standard of conduct” and to allow local governments, the state Department of Justice and gun violence survivors to sue for egregious violations of state sales and marketing regulations.

After the Supreme Court decided in June that strict concealed carry laws like those in California and New York are unconstitutional, Bonta supported a bill to maintain strong regulations for obtaining a permit to carry a firearm in public. That measure died on the final night of this year’s legislative session, but Bonta said he is committed to passing a similar bill.


The bill, unveiled in response to a Supreme Court ruling, was a backup plan to let California keep restricting who can get a gun license. It failed.

Sept. 1, 2022

“You can’t be tough on crime unless you’re tough on guns,” Bonta said.

Bonta has also pledged to defend California’s broad reproductive freedoms, a topic of critical importance for many Golden State voters following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn abortion access guaranteed by Roe vs. Wade.

Bonta said that California’s attorney general has to be “loud, strong, full-throated, standing up, not sitting down, in the front, not in the back” when it comes to protecting the right to an abortion.


Where Hochman stands on guns and abortion

Hochman similarly wants to address gun violence and remove weapons from those who are legally barred from owning them, while “respecting the rights of law-abiding citizens to own and possess guns under California law.”

“My view is that I would actually do a better job of taking guns away from criminals and those in our society who are by law not allowed to possess guns than our current attorney general,” he said.

Hochman committed to enforcing all of California’s laws, including on gun control, but said some currently violate the Supreme Court’s order against excessive restrictions on carrying a concealed weapon.


Hochman said he is also “pro-choice” and would “fully enforce all the laws on the books protecting a woman’s reproductive rights.”


Past coverage

Partisan labels were tested in several high-profile races on California’s primary ballot, including the bid for state attorney general.

June 8, 2022

The progressive incumbent Rob Bonta will have to defend his record against tough-on-crime campaigns including Anne Marie Schubert’s.

April 25, 2022


L.A. Times Editorial Board Endorsements

The Times’ editorial page publishes endorsements based on candidate interviews and independent reporting. The editorial board operates independently of the newsroom — reporters covering these races have no say in the endorsements.

The L.A. Times’ editorial board endorsements for statewide ballot measures, elected offices in Los Angeles city and county, L.A. Unified School District board, L.A. county superior court, statewide offices, the state Legislature and U.S. House and Senate seats.


How and where to vote

Ballots will be in the mail to all 22 million registered voters in the state no later than Oct. 10. Californians can return ballots by mail, drop them at collection boxes or turn them in at voting centers. They can also cast ballots early at voting centers or wait until Nov. 8 to vote at their neighborhood polling places.

Californians can register to vote or check their status at

Here’s how to vote in the California midterm election, how to register, what to do if you didn’t get mail ballot or if you made a mistake on your ballot.


Follow more election coverage

California voters head to the polls Nov. 8 to vote for U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, and races for U.S. representative in Congress, state senator and state Assemblymember. Local races include who will be the Los Angeles mayor and L.A. County sheriff. There are seven ballot propositions for voters to decide on the table.


In the November midterm election, California is one of the battlefields as Democrats and Republicans fight over control of Congress.


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