Newsom will wait to announce California AG until Becerra confirmed

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaks during a news conference. | AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File

OAKLAND, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom confirmed on Wednesday that he will wait until Attorney General Xavier Becerra is confirmed as President Joe Biden’s Health and Human Services secretary before announcing a replacement.

“I’m very close to making that decision,” Newsom said, but “our current attorney general is still the current attorney general, has not been formally confirmed by the United States Senate, and so the timing of a public announcement will be determined on the basis of that confirmation.”

Background: Biden set off a California lobbying blitz when he selected Becerra to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But potential replacements have been in something of a holding pattern because Becerra’s Senate confirmation hasn’t happened yet.

Republicans have taken issue with Becerra’s record, suggesting he is too overtly partisan for the job, in a sign they would try to stymie his appointment. But Democratic victories in a pair of Georgia Senate races boosted Becerra’s chances by giving Democrats a narrow Senate majority.

The Senate has not yet scheduled a confirmation hearing for Becerra, but Newsom said he wants to announce a successor. “We hope that happens sooner — I certainly do — than later,” he said during a press conference announcing a mass vaccination site at the Oakland Coliseum.

What’s next: Ambitious California Democrats with law degrees have been clamoring for the attorney general job — a high-profile statewide platform that can serve as a launching pad for higher office. Newsom said on Wednesday he was weighing “some extraordinary people that have not only sought consideration, some that have not sought consideration.”

Among the candidates in the mix are Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif) — who is making a late push with the blessing of Speaker Nancy Pelosi — Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

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