Assemblywoman Shirley Weber Talks Priorities As California Secretary Of State
She's known for creating legislation around social justice, police reform and education across California. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who's represented the 79th Assembly District since 2012, has been nominated by Gov. Gavin Newsom to succeed Alex Padilla as California secretary of state. She'll be the first African-American to serve in the position. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber joined Midday Edition to talk about her priorities and hopes for her successor. The interview below has been edited for clarity.
Q: What was your reaction when Gov. Newsom announced you as his choice for California secretary of state?
I had learned about it a little before the announcement was made, but I knew that they were considering several individuals and never had on my radar in terms of personal goals and objectives to be the secretary of state. I mean, I've always worked with them and respected the work they do and have always been an advocate for voting rights and those kinds of things and and have authored a number of bills to fight for that for those who at least at least able to fight for themselves. So, I was really honored that he thought that the work I had done and the life that I had lived in terms of my values and those kinds of things were in line with what California needs at this time.
Q: What do you plan on prioritizing as California's secretary of state?
I think it's always important that we prioritize the concept of voting and the integrity of our voting system. This has been a really unusual season for us in terms of voting and having such attacks on our voting system. I mean, all of my life, I have never seen such anxiety around voting and the fact that people were attacking whether or not our voting system had some sense of integrity and fairness. I've traveled around the world and I've been in places where they had voting taking place. And I can understand the anxiety of the other countries that they have. But I've never seen that in this country and I didn't think in my lifetime I ever would. And so we must continue to do the kind of transparent work to make sure people feel comfortable with voting, that we expand out the rights of individuals to vote and we protect people's right to vote who have registered to vote and making it accessible for people to do.
Q: How does the role of secretary of state touch on the work you were doing to pass legislation around police reform, education and even reparations?
It's interesting because when I first went to the legislature, the first bills I did actually were around voting and were around making sure that those who were uninformed got got a chance to vote. Those who had committed felonies, that they knew they had a right to vote and so my earlier bills are really grappling with those particular issues because those issues become fundamental to the rights individuals have the ability to express themselves and to make decisions about what they want.
And one of the things I've learned as an elected official is that when you have the public engaged and fighting for their rights, it makes it a whole lot easier to pass legislation that produce a fairness and and equality and justice for everyone.
Q: What are your hopes for who fills your seat next?
I won't leave you. I'm still there. I'm just across the street from the Capitol. But, it's work that we that we began and we will continue to do and it's constant work. It's not that one person who has a maximum of 12 years could actually change all of California. But what I tried to do in my time was to open the light of opportunity ... I wanted people to know that with hard work and perseverance and working with community groups, you can make a difference.
Q: Your daughter, Dr. Akilah Weber, has decided to throw her hat in the ring. What are your thoughts on that?
Well, you know, as a parent, you become proud when you think that your children think enough of the work you've done to want to be involved in it. And I told someone initially that I thought 'Wow, she's been close enough to the fire, to know that it burns sometimes.' She has always had a passion for trying to make a difference. And even in her practice in medicine and the things that she sees. When she sees injustices and she sees inequalities, she wants to address them. I'm very proud of the fact that she has taken the challenge in La Mesa as a city council person and now wants to take the challenge in Sacramento to kind of carry on the legacy, but also to develop her own legacy.