Democratic state Sen. Kevin de León of Los Angeles was elected Monday by his peers to become the next president pro tem of the Senate and said his priorities as leader will include restoring public trust in the Legislature after a series of scandals.
De León, 47, is scheduled to formally take over from the current leader, Sen. Darrell Steinberg, on Oct. 15, just before Steinberg leaves office. However, de León is immediately stepping in as the chief strategist over Democratic Senate campaigns for the November election in hopes of regaining a supermajority.
De León will be the first Los Angeles resident to lead the state Senate in two decades and the first Latino to hold the position since 1883.
Steinberg noted that it was a "watershed moment" in California's modern history and predicted good years for the state with de León at the helm of the senate.
"Kevin is smart. He is seasoned. He is hungry to get big things done," Steinberg said in his nominating speech. "He is unafraid to lead."
De León takes over a Senate in turmoil, with three Democratic senators facing criminal charges.
"I think what happened was an amazing anomaly when you have three individuals (charged) in a short window of time, but we have moved forward with new Senate rules, with a blackout period, with an important objective ombudsman," de León said after the unanimous, bipartisan voice vote.
De León supported Steinberg's policy of resisting Republican demands to expell lawmakers facing criminal charges, including Sen. Roderick Wright of the Inglewood area, who a jury found guilty of eight felonies including perjury and voter fraud for lying about living in his district.
Wright's fate may be known next month when a judge decides whether to uphold the verdict. Sens. Ronald S. Calderon and Leland Yee have been indicted by federal authorities in separate cases alleging they offered official actions in exchange for payments.
De León has been part of a group of Senators who have proposed tougher ethics rules. He sponsored a resolution that creates a blackout on campaign fundraising by senators during the last month of the session.