Online Extra: Political Notes: Speculation grows over Perez as gay cabinet pick

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Monday February 11, 2013
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Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Speculation is growing throughout California and Washington, D.C. that President Barack Obama will name gay Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) as the next labor secretary.

The news hit last week that Perez is on the short list for the appointment in an Associated Press report February 5. If chosen Perez would become the first out person named to a cabinet level post in a presidential administration.

His departure from Sacramento would also set off a scramble for his successor in the powerful legislative post Perez has held since March 1, 2010. He is the first out person to be Assembly speaker in California and one of the few LGBT legislators nationally to serve in the top leadership post of their respective legislative chambers.

Among the lawmakers mentioned as likely speaker candidates is lesbian Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who in December became the majority floor leader. A onetime acting mayor of San Diego, Atkins was re-elected to a second term in November and potentially has four more years left in the Assembly under term limits.

Perez is now in his lame duck Assembly session, having been elected to a third two-year term in November. Late last year he opened an account to begin raising money for a potential run for lieutenant governor in 2018 when the current officeholder, former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom , would be termed out if elected to a second term.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is stepping down in order to run for a seat on the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors next year. Asked about running for the same supervisor seat as Holis, Perez has told reporters he would not run against her.

That has led to tongues wagging over whether Perez, a former union leader, will replace Solis in the labor department job. During an online chat last week outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa voiced support for seeing Perez be nominated.

"I heard my cousin, by the way, is on the list and I'm glad he is. I've said to a number of people he would make a great secretary of labor," Villaraigosa was quoted as saying.

So far Perez has remained circumspect with reporters about his interest in the job.

"Let them ask and I'll give you the answer then," he told the Los Angeles Times when contacted about the prospect of crashing through the White House's lavender ceiling.

He reiterated his reply to the Sacramento Bee , telling the paper that he is "always flattered if somebody thinks my work is worthy of other consideration, but I'm focused on being speaker for these next two years. And continuing to build back our economy, and continuing to build on the fiscal discipline that we've created here in California. And getting people back to work."

Asked about Perez being among Obama's potential nominees for the cabinet post, White House spokesman Shin Inouye had no comment.

"I have no personnel announcements to make at this time," he told the Bay Area Reporter late last week.

In regard to the gossiping about who will be the next Assembly speaker, Sacramento watcher Scott Lay noted focus on Atkins in his "Around the Capitol" email blast Monday, February 4. Answering the question of why Atkins is seen by some as a top contender, Lay pointed to the political largess Atkins spent on behalf of her fellow Democrats during the 2012 elections.

"You need not look further than the love that she spread in 2012 to races for future members, departing members, and the party. Atkins raised $478,612 and spent $532,804 to be re-elected to her San Diego safe seat," wrote Lay.

She could face competition for the post from freshman Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), whom Perez named a Democratic whip this session. The former nurse's lobbyist would maintain the speakership in Latino hands as Latinos are expected to become the Golden State's majority ethnic group and outnumber whites by 2014.

He would also have the possibility of remaining speaker for the next 12 years, due to a change in the term limits law voters approved. Under Proposition 28 the freshman lawmaker can opt to spend all of the 12 years he is allowed in the legislature in the lower chamber. Therefore, Gomez could opt to remain in the Assembly for that entire time and would not be term limited out of office until 2024.

Due to the Presidents Day holiday Monday, February 18, the Political Notes column will not return until Monday, February 25.


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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail