California's Role Fighting Trump Marks Attorney General Race
California's Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra fights the Trump administration at seemingly every turn and wants voters to keep him in the job to continue the battle.
Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Becerra California's first Latino attorney general last year after Kamala Harris left the job when she was elected to the U.S. Senate. Becerra, a long-time Los Angeles congressman, was a deputy state attorney general 30 years ago and said he would rather focus on the office's more traditional role of prosecuting bad guys and protecting consumers.
"But what gets all the news is the stuff dealing with the headwinds from Washington," Becerra said. "I don't think that's going to change."
Becerra regularly makes national headlines challenging the Republican president's efforts to change environmental and immigration policies. His more than 50 lawsuits, legal briefs and other legal action include significant victories, such as protecting the Obama administration's "Dreamers" program that protects hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation and preserving the bulk of California's sanctuary laws limiting state cooperation with federal immigration agents.
His opponent in the Nov. 6 election, Republican former Superior Court judge Steven Bailey, called the focus on Trump policies "a waste of taxpayer resources" and said he would concentrate on fighting crime.
"You can't make California safe when you're running off to Washington and pretending that you're doing something," Bailey said.
Becerra's challenges to Trump give him a near lock on the office, said University of Southern California political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe.
"You have an attorney general who has positioned himself in California, in a significantly blue state, as an anti-Trump," she said. "I don't think Bailey has the money or the name recognition to touch Becerra."
Becerra had $1.52 million in his campaign account as of mid-September after spending more than $4 million this year during the primary election campaign. Bailey had about $27,000 after spending less than $330,000 to make it through the primary.
Further complicating Bailey's efforts are ethics questions, including allegations he used his judgeship to aid his political campaign, improperly accepted gifts and steered business to a firm where his son worked.
Bailey denied any improprieties while he was an El Dorado County judge from 2009 to 2017, calling the ethics allegations "a political hit" designed to derail his campaign.
A judicial ethics panel is reviewing the case and a decision is expected after the election. Bailey could be publicly admonished even though he no longer is a judge but can't be disqualified should he win the attorney general's race.