Political Notes: Bay Area LGBTQ API group backs Bonta for CA AG

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday February 3, 2021
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Assemblyman Rob Bonta is believed to be under consideration by Governor Gavin Newsom to be nominated state attorney general should current AG Xavier Becerra join President Joe Biden's cabinet. Photo: Public domain
Assemblyman Rob Bonta is believed to be under consideration by Governor Gavin Newsom to be nominated state attorney general should current AG Xavier Becerra join President Joe Biden's cabinet. Photo: Public domain

Bucking other LGBTQ leaders who have beseeched California Governor Gavin Newsom to name gay Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur as the state's next attorney general, members of a Bay Area group for out Asians and Pacific Islanders have thrown their support behind Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), a straight ally.

In a letter signed by Gay Asian Pacific Alliance Chair Michael Nguyen, GAPA's political action committee notified Newsom that it "emphatically endorses and supports" Bonta being named the next attorney general for the Golden State. Nguyen noted Bonta's being the Legislature's first member of Filipino descent and his background of being a Yale Law School graduate and former deputy city attorney in San Francisco.

"A son of immigrants and civil rights activists who worked with the United Farm Workers, Assemblymember Rob Bonta would bring an impressive pedigree, work ethic, and diversity to the Office of Attorney General," wrote Nguyen, a gay patent attorney also known as the drag performer Juicy Liu.

GAPA sent Newsom its letter January 19 and included it in its monthly Lavzilla newsletter released February 2. Just as Newsom has been a leader on LGBTQ rights, so too has Bonta, Nguyen argued in the correspondence, pointing to the lawmaker receiving perfect scores on EQCA's legislative scorecard since taking office in 2012.

"He has walked with us in San Francisco Pride. He wore our GAPA shirt to Oakland Pride. He has been recognized by the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club," wrote Nguyen, referring to Alameda County's LGBTQ political group. "And most recently, he stood with us when members of our LGBTQ API community were being attacked."

Nguyen was referring to a Bay Area Reporter guest opinion piece that he co-wrote ahead of the November election decrying the homophobic and transphobic attacks a trio of young, out, Asian candidates in East Bay races had to endure. Bonta was among several state lawmakers who co-signed the op-ed.

Should Attorney General Xavier Becerra be confirmed as the country's next Health and Human Services secretary then Newsom will nominate his successor. Various candidates and their backers have been lobbying the governor about the appointment.

With Newsom naming former lawmaker and secretary of state Alex Padilla as California's first Latino U.S. senator to succeed Vice President Kamala Harris, and tapping Black former Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) as Padilla's successor, the governor has faced growing calls to name an API leader as Becerra's replacement. Gay actor George Takei of "Star Trek" fame late last month was among more than 160 Asian American leaders signing on to a letter in support of seeing Newsom name state Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu as the next AG.

With Newsom's selection of Padilla for the congressional seat there has been some speculation it lessens the chances of seeing another Latino leader, such as Zbur, be named the state's top law enforcement official. That has not stopped myriad LGBTQ leaders from across California and the country pressing Newsom to pick Zbur, who is currently running to be Los Angeles' next city attorney.

Among the national out leaders backing Zbur, a Harvard Law School graduate who became the first openly gay lawyer and first openly gay partner at Latham & Watkins in Los Angeles, are gay Greater Phoenix Leadership?CEO and former San Francisco AIDS Foundation CEO Neil Giuliano; gay New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair and former state lawmaker Raymond Buckley; lesbian former Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Elizabeth Birch; queer LGBTQ Victory Institute Executive Director Ruben Gonzales; gay GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders Executive Director Janson Wu; and Harvey Milk Foundation Co-Founder & Executive Chair Stuart Milk, the gay nephew of the slain gay San Francisco supervisor.

They were among the signatories to a January 25 letter sent to Newsom that argued Zbur's "extensive experience as a leading government and environmental law attorney and his role leading a large nonprofit organization make him an extremely qualified candidate to serve as California's next attorney general."

In a January 19 letter sent to the governor, LGBTQ leaders from across California argued that Newsom's appointing Zbur "as the nation's third openly LGBTQ+ attorney general and the first openly LGBTQ+ attorney general of color would further cement your legacy of leadership as an unyielding ally to the LGBTQ+ community and one of the key figures in the LGBTQ+ movement."

Signatories included gay Congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside); bisexual Palm Springs Mayor Christy Holstege; gay San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman; transgender Palm Springs City Councilwoman and CalPERS board member Lisa Middleton; gay California Coastal Commission Chair and Chula Vista City Councilman Stephen Padilla; and Bamby Salcedo, a transgender woman who is founder and president of the TransLatin@ Coalition.

Early in January the eight-member Legislative LGBTQ Caucus had sent Newsom its own letter encouraging him to pick either Zbur or its former chair, gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), to be the next AG. That came after Wiener had told the B.A.R. in December that he felt San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera would be a "fantastic" choice among the many strong candidates reportedly under consideration by Newsom to become AG like Zbur.

Other names that have been floated as possible picks include District Attorneys Jeff Rosen of Santa Clara County and Diana Becton, who is Black, of Contra Costa County; Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg; and state Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas.) This week, Axios reported that also "quietly lobbying" for the job has been Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank).

As the B.A.R. has previously noted, the first out person appointed to a statewide position was Tony Miller, a gay man and Democratic lawyer who was appointed to the vacant secretary of state position in 1994. Miller, however, lost his bid that year for a full term in the position, and in 1998, he again came up short in his bid for lieutenant governor.

State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara became California's first LGBTQ elected statewide officer in 2018. He will be up for reelection next year, as will be whomever Newsom appoints as AG. They will be seeking a full four-year term, as Becerra won election to a full term in 2018 after being appointed AG by former governor Jerry Brown in December 2016.

He was tapped to succeed Harris after she was elected to her U.S. Senate seat that November.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail m.bajko@ebar.com

Due to the Presidents Day holiday February 15, the Political Notes column will return Monday, February 22.

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