Assemblywoman Toni Atkins voted in as speaker-elect

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), center, is congratulated by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), right, after she was elected Assembly speaker at the Capitol in Sacramento. By a unanimous voice vote, Atkins was elected to replace Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles). Perez says a transition date has not been set but that it will be before summer.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

SACRAMENTO --Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) now has a new title: Madame Speaker-elect.

In a voice vote Monday on the Assembly floor, lawmakers deemed Atkins their next leader. The proceedings were marked not with suspense -- Atkins had locked up the post in January, when Assembly Democrats declared their support -- but with warm, bipartisan praise for the incoming speaker.

Atkins was lauded by colleagues from both sides of the aisle, many of whom mentioned Atkins’ impoverished childhood in southwestern Virginia. The daughter of a miner and a seamstress, Atkins grew up in a home that had no running water.

“Growing up poor shapes your perspective and it shapes your commitment to making a difference,” said Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), noting in particular her efforts to help the homeless.


Atkins’ win marks a number of “firsts” for the job: she’s the first out lesbian to hold the spot, as well as the first lawmaker from San Diego. She will be the state’s third female speaker.

After the vote, Atkins laid out a list of priorities for the Legislature, including dealing with the state’s water infrastructure, prison overcrowding and addressing pension obligations.

Atkins, speaking to reporters after the vote, said her ascent to the speakership was “surreal.”

“It’s a place I never thought I would be,” Atkins said, alluding to her upbringing. “It was honestly never in my world vision that I could do this. So it’s an incredible personal honor.”

Neither Atkins nor current Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) offered a specific date when Atkins would transition into the new role.

“Actually getting all the work done that needs to happen for the transition will dictate the transition date, not some arbitrary selection of a date on the calendar,” Pérez said.