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California Leadership Update
Assembly Democrats unanimously elected Majority Floor Leader Toni Atkins as the next Speaker of the lower house this afternoon. Traditionally, the Legislature has elected one leader from Northern California and one leader from Southern California to more proportionately represent the state's population. That decades-long practice was broken with the Assembly Democratic Caucus' vote to nominate Atkins, who represents San Diego, as the next Speaker. This announcement comes just a week after Steinberg announced Los Angeles Senator Kevin de Leon as his expected successor to lead the Senate.
Atkins' nomination still needs to be voted on by the entire house, but with a majority vote and the unanimous support of the caucus, there is not expected to be any difficulty. There was early speculation that a freshman would win the speakership post and lead the lower house for a full ten years. However, because Atkins is termed out in 2014, she gained the support of a large number of freshmen who were willing to elect a one-session Speaker until a member who has the potential to serve a longer term is chosen in 2016.
With Senator DeSaulnier stepping out of the Senate President pro Tem race to run for Congress, Senator Kevin de Leon is seemingly the successor for the position. Although his nomination has not yet been put up for a vote, he has the support of Steinberg and the majority of the Senate Democratic caucus, so he should easily win the post. He was first elected to the Legislature in 2006, where he served in the Assembly for four years before winning his Senate seat in 2014. De Leon is termed out in 2018, so he has the potential to lead the upper house for four years.