"I want to make the fights of everyday people my fights and be their champion."
In his first television interview since being nominated to serve as California’s next Attorney General, State Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) spoke with FOX 11’s Elex Michaelson about his agenda, his family, and how to combat the rising wave of anti-Asian hate crime.
Wednesday, Bonta, who has represented California’s 18th district in the State Assembly since 2012, was selected by Governor Gavin Newsom to succeed Xavier Becerra in the state’s top justice position.
Becerra stepped down as AG after being confirmed as President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Health and Human Services.
If confirmed by both houses of the state Legislature, Bonta said he plans to "fight against the abuse of power" and "to stand up for the little guy when being abuse by those with power."
"That takes a lot of forms," Bonta said. "It takes the form of making our broken criminal justice system more just, protecting vulnerable communities from pollution, making sure seniors aren’t the victims of elder abuse, making sure that consumers aren’t the victims of fraud and scams, making sure that corporations aren’t cheating Californians, making sure workers are being treated fairly and not subject to wage theft or the underground economy, making sure that health care is provided in a way that’s accessible and affordable."
Born in the Philippines, Bonta was brought to California as a toddler when his missionary parents fled the oppressive regime of President Ferdinand Marcos, Marcos having declared martial law the day after Bonta was born.
Once in the states, Bonta’s parents, who he called "lifelong social justice advocates and activists," settled in La Paz, California where they went to work with Dolores Huerta, Cesar Chavez, and The United Farmworkers of America.
Nearly 50 years later, Bonta told Michaelson about the experience of having his mother, who became a citizen to vote for her son in his 2010 race of the Alameda City Council, by his side as he was nominated to become the Golden State Attorney General.
"She said to me what she says to me so often, that she loves me and that she’s proud of me, and that has been a fuel for me, and an anchor, and a foundation of support, for so long," Bonta reflected.
Bonta’s nomination, which would make him the state’s first Filipino Attorney General, comes at a time when hate crimes against Asian Americans are on the rise.
According to a report released this month by California State University, San Bernardino, while hate crimes at large decreased 7% between 2019 and 2020, the number of hate crimes against Asian-Americans jumped 150% in the same period, from 49 in 2019 to 122 last year. New York City and Los Angeles were the two cities most responsible for the increase.
"The Asian American community, and I know this from lived experience, from personal experience, as a member of the API community, is in a state of crisis right now, it’s a full-on state of emergency," Bonta said, noting how the types of crimes targeting Asian-Americans have escalated from spitting and vulgarities to, as observed in Atlanta last week, murder.
"It is really important for the people’s attorney, the chief law officer of the state of California, to see and value our API community, and to care, and also to take action," Bonta continued.
Among those actions, Bonta said the state must ensure that an anti-hate hotline is up-and-running and that the criminal justice system should provide more training for law enforcement and work with victims and communities to better understand and address hate.
In a wide-ranging interview on The Issue Is, Bonta also opened up about fatherhood and how he is influenced by his three children, he also discussed his support for both the elimination of cash bail and for Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon.
The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson is California's only statewide political show. For showtimes and more information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.