California governor taps U.S. Representative Becerra as attorney general

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U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA) speaks on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

California Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday nominated U.S. Congressman Xavier Becerra, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a longtime representative from Los Angeles, to be the state’s next attorney general.

In choosing Becerra, 58, Brown is tapping a pragmatic and reliably progressive Democrat with a deep knowledge of Washington politics as the state’s top lawyer. He will replace Democrat Kamala Harris, who was elected last month to the U.S. Senate, at a time when California is positioning itself to respond to anticipated conservative policies by populist Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

Brown, who is particularly concerned that Trump and congressional Republicans will try to roll back environmental protections and reduce the U.S. role in efforts to combat climate change, cited Becerra as someone who could battle such efforts.

“Xavier has been an outstanding public servant – in the State Legislature, the U.S. Congress and as a deputy attorney general,” Brown said in announcing the appointment. “I’m confident he will be a champion for all Californians and help our state aggressively combat climate change.”

The appointment also takes Becerra out of the running to become the ranking member of Congress’ powerful Ways and Means committee. In a statement released on Thursday, outgoing ranking member Sandy Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, indicated the position would be filled by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, of Massachusetts.

A Stanford-trained lawyer, Becerra served as California’s deputy attorney general before winning a seat in Congress representing the northeast section of Los Angeles in 1992.

In Congress, Becerra led the House Democratic Caucus and also served on the Ways and Means Committee and the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

“California right now is ahead of the country when it comes to clean energy, commonsense treatment of immigrants, real health security and so much more,” Becerra said Thursday in a press release accepting the nomination. “As a former deputy attorney general, I relished the chance to be our state’s chief law enforcement officer to protect consumers, advance criminal justice reform and, of course, keep our families safe.”

If approved by the Democratic-majority state legislature, Becerra will replace Harris after she resigns from the post to join the Senate in coming weeks. Harris, also a Democrat, replaces California U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who is retiring.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Diane Craft)

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Copyright 2016. Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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