Will Newsom appoint an Asian attorney general?

Assemblymember Rob Bonta. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters.

Pressure is mounting on Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint an Asian American or Pacific Islander attorney general amid a surge in anti-Asian harassment and violence, including Tuesday shootings in Atlanta in which a man killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent.

On Wednesday, top Asian American and Latino officials called on Newsom to replace Xavier Becerra — expected to be confirmed today as President Joe Biden’s health and human services secretary — with Assemblymember Rob Bonta, an Oakland Democrat and California’s first Filipino American legislator. The push followed a Tuesday report from Stop AAPI Hate documenting nearly 4,000 incidents of anti-Asian discrimination nationwide from March 2020 through February 2021. Around 70% of incidents were reported by women, and almost 45% took place in California.

  • Assemblymember David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat: “California deserves to have a top cop who understands our communities, our diversity, and that has experience in building community-based solutions that target hate.”

Although Atlanta authorities said the shootings did not appear to be racially motivated, Chiu said the murders were “hate crimes fueled by racism” encouraged in part by former President Donald Trump calling the coronavirus “the China virus.” Anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents skyrocketed in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orange County in 2020, according to police department data. Numerous unprovoked attacks on elderly Asian Americans prompted Alameda County to form a special response unit dedicated to crimes against Asians, and San Francisco police are increasing patrols in areas with large Asian populations. Newsom in February signed a bill allocating $1.4 million to better track and respond to anti-Asian violence.

Chiu and other officials suggested Wednesday that Newsom owes the attorney general position to the Asian American community, which supported the governor’s decision to appoint Alex Padilla as California’s first Latino senator and Shirley Weber as its first Black secretary of state. Top Asian American Democrats also recently backed Newsom by denouncing the recall effort.

  • David Nelson, vice president of the California Asian Chamber: “The CalAsian chamber implores the governor to not overlook our community yet again when it comes to his appointment power. … Now it is up to the governor to meet this moment himself.”

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