Californians will have the opportunity this November to elect the existing attorney general for a complete term or vote for a new candidate.
The position is the state’s top law enforcement official, who enforces the laws of the state and provides critical public safety and law enforcement support services statewide. The position was established in the California Constitution.
Rob Bonta, the current attorney general, and Nathan Hochman, a longtime lawyer and one-time Assistant U.S. Attorney General, are vying to be elected.
Bonta has been attorney general since the spring of 2021 when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would appoint him to the position and the legislature later voted to confirm him to replace Xavier Becerra, who became the U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services.
Bonta is filling the remainder of the current term, and the upcoming election gives him the opportunity to win a full four-year term.
The website for the Office of the Attorney General lists some of the responsibilities:
- Represents the People of California in civil and criminal matters before trial courts, appellate courts and the supreme courts of California and the United States.
- Serves as legal counsel to state officers and, with few exceptions, to state agencies, boards and commissions.
- Assists district attorneys, local law enforcement and federal and international criminal justice agencies in the administration of justice.
- Strengthens California’s law enforcement community by coordinating statewide narcotics enforcement efforts, supporting criminal investigations and providing forensic science services, identification and information services and telecommunication support.
During President Donald Trump’s four years in office, the attorney general held a highly visible role as it took almost constant legal action against the federal government. Less visible responsibilities are protecting workers’ rights, civil rights and the state’s consumers.
“The Civil Rights Enforcement Section takes a proactive role in identifying civil rights violations to be remedied by the Attorney General,” the OAG’s website says.
More recently, the attorney general created a team that will have a hand in investigating shootings by police officers in the state.
The attorney general is also responsible for protecting California’s environment and vulnerable communities.
“By law, the Attorney General has independent authority, acting directly in the name of the People, ‘to act to protect the natural resources of the State of California from pollution, impairment, or destruction,’” the AG’s office says.
The position has been used several times as a way to reach a higher position in state and federal government.
Prior to Becerra, Kamala Harris was attorney general before being elected as U.S. Senator and later Vice President.
Previous governors Jerry Brown, in 2010, and George Deukmejian, in 1978, were also attorneys general directly prior to being elected governor. Brown, however, had already been governor in the 70s and 80s.
Whoever is elected this November, be it Bonta or Hochman, will oversee the Department of Justice and nearly 500 sworn peace officers and 600 other law enforcement personnel.