Democratic incumbent Rob Bonta leads Republican Nathan Hochman in California attorney general race

Rob Bonta, left, and Nathan Hochman, candidates for state attorney general.
(Los Angeles Times)

Incumbent Democratic Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta was leading by a wide margin in the polls Tuesday evening over Republican defense attorney Nathan Hochman in California’s race for top cop — a position that rose in importance and relevance after two U.S. Supreme Court decisions this summer rolled back laws on gun control and abortion access.

Bonta, a former San Francisco Bay Area state lawmaker known for his progressive views on criminal justice, campaigned on the promise to defend California’s robust abortion laws and continue his work to end gun violence and illegal firearm ownership.

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Bonta last year after Xavier Becerra resigned to become U.S. Health and Human Services secretary. This was Bonta’s first run for statewide office.


During his tenure, Bonta prioritized ending an “epidemic of hate” against communities of color and other vulnerable groups and has used a new “housing strike force” within the California Department of Justice to pressure local governments into compliance with state laws.

The California Republican Party hoped to sway voters into its column with Hochman, a former federal prosecutor who billed himself as a moderate candidate focused on lowering crime rates and ending the state’s “spiral of lawlessness.” Hochman criticized Bonta’s relative lack of law enforcement experience. He argued that the state needs a top prosecutor with extensive courtroom experience who is willing to use the bully pulpit to attack the causes of rising crime.

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Hochman led the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tax Division in prosecuting “tax defiers” as an assistant attorney general and prosecuted more than 180 cases involving corruption and fraud at the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California. As a defense attorney, Hochman represented clients such as former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca. He has also served on the L.A. City Ethics Commission.

Hochman focused his campaign on strengthening penalties for fentanyl dealers and coordinating a stronger statewide response to human trafficking. He said he is “pro-choice” and would work with the Legislature to pass a law in response to a June Supreme Court decision that deemed restrictive concealed-carry laws — such as those in California and New York — unconstitutional.

Bonta largely shrugged off criticism of his résumé and said he’d spent years working on the issues he now oversees as attorney general.

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He said the state needs an attorney general who will be “loud, strong, full-throated, standing up, not sitting down, in the front, not in the back” on reproductive rights. He pledged to work again with lawmakers on a proposal to maintain strong concealed-carry regulations after a bill he helped craft died at the end of this year’s legislative session.


Bonta served as a deputy city attorney in San Francisco and vice mayor for the city of Alameda before being elected to the state Assembly in 2012.

In 2019, he wrote a bill to phase out private prisons and detention facilities, which he has since defended in court, and supported another to eliminate cash bail, an effort voters rejected.

During 2020 protests against police violence, Bonta supported a law that requires the attorney general to investigative deadly police shootings of unarmed civilians. He recently announced that his office finished its first investigation, which cleared two Los Angeles police officers of criminal wrongdoing in a July 2021 shooting of a mentally ill man.

The attorney general is also charged with supporting local criminal investigations and coordinating statewide narcotics enforcement, while running regional forensic crime labs. The position is generally considered one of the most important in California and a steppingstone to higher office.

Concerns over crime made the race for attorney general one of the most interesting in the June 7 primary. The excitement dissolved into a standard partisan contest after Hochman narrowly advanced out of the primary against a staunch conservative and a well-known independent prosecutor who had hoped to appeal to unaffiliated voters: Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert.