By T.A. Hendrickson
President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of Xavier Becerra to be Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) elevates a politician with ties to Northeast Los Angeles to a seat of power in the Biden administration.
The choice shines a light on the political talent in Northeast L.A. It also underscores the power of the area’s elective offices to nurture and advance political careers.
Becerra, currently the California attorney general, made his name in national politics as the Member of Congress for districts that include NELA. During his 12 terms in Congress (1993-2017), he became the highest ranking Latino in the U.S. House of Representatives where his posts included chairing the House Democratic Caucus and serving on the powerful Ways and Means committee.
In Congress, Becerra stood for values and policies that reflect NELA’s progressive bent, including immigration reform, gay marriage, strengthening Social Security and opposing tax cuts for the rich. As California attorney general, he led the legal fights against Trump-era health, immigration and environmental policies.
Becerra’s selection as Secretary of HHS, subject to Senate confirmation, narrows the field of potential appointees to the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Vice President Elect Kamala Harris. Becerra was reported to be a contender for the appointment, to be made by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The front runner now appears to be California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
What is known for sure at this point is that Gov. Newsom will have at least two vacancies to fill: One, for U.S. Senate from California and one for state attorney general. If his choices create vacancies in other elective offices, special elections or gubernatorial appointments will be needed to fill those posts.
The game of political musical chairs is only beginning.