Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico on Monday will formally announce his plans to run for state attorney general in 2010.
"As majority leader I've been involved with the budget more than ever before "... and in these last few weeks I've been thinking a lot about where the state is," Torrico, D-Newark, said Friday. "Our state is clearly going in the wrong direction. We've got some challenges ahead of us. We're going to spend more on prisons than on higher education in two years. We need to have a new conversation in California about what our priorities are, and the attorney general is an office that should impact law enforcement "... and also a wide range of other issues I'm passionate about."
Those issues range from civil rights to consumer rights and beyond, he said.
Torrico will join a Democratic primary field for attorney general that already includes San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris — who's already hard at work raising money from many of the same deep-pocketed donors with whom she made contact during the Obama campaign — and Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who ran against incumbent state Attorney General Jerry Brown in the 2006 primary.
Other Assembly Democrats reportedly considering runs for attorney general in 2010 include Joe Canciamilla, D-Pittsburg; Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; and Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara.
Chris Kelly, chief privacy officer for the Internet social-networking site Facebook, reportedly also has been mulling a Democratic primary run.
Torrico said he has a "broad vision for the direction the state needs to go in," having been a legislative champion not only of law enforcement and public safety but also of creating middle-class jobs.
The attorney general, he noted, has a big impact on California's business climate.
And from a political standpoint, Torrico said, he would be entering the race with $650,000 cash on hand — a sum far in excess of anyone else now in the field, and a good down payment on a race that could cost $5 million or more.
"If you look at the reports over the past four years, you see I have the track record of being able to raise the money," he said.
The married father of two is the son of Bolivian immigrants, and his mother is of Japanese descent. So Torrico has been the first California lawmaker to be a member of two ethnic caucuses — the Legislative Latino Caucus and the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus.
That should stand him in good stead with crucial voting blocs, he said, as should his status as a Silicon Valley Democrat.
Torrico said he'll soon roll out a package of "lessons learned" bills based on the public's loss of faith in the Legislature through this year's budget fiasco. He said he'd already been working on a bill to withhold lawmakers' per diems if the budget is late, "long before Abel Maldonado came to the dance."
He'll also pitch bills to ban all gifts to lawmakers from lobbyists and lobbyist employers, and to enact a fundraising blackout during budget negotiations, he said.
Elected to the Assembly in 2004, Torrico — who'll celebrate his 40th birthday next month — will be term-limited out in 2010. His 20th Assembly District includes Fremont, Newark, Union City and Milpitas, and parts of San Jose, Hayward, Castro Valley and Pleasanton. He was a Newark City Councilman from 2001 through 2004.
For nearly a decade before his Assembly election, Torrico was a union lawyer — experience that he said he put to work first as chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security, and then later as chairman of the Governmental Organization Committee and in his caucus leadership role.
He counts among his proudest legislative achievements laws that provide 60 days of notice for no-fault evictions of renters; removing barriers to development of affordable housing for working families; preventing foster children from losing health-care benefits; and requiring disclosure of payment data and amounts by health plans.
Torrico in 2005 had spoken of how the debate over same-sex marriage legislation put him in conflict between his own civil-rights and born-again Christian beliefs.
He said he prayed and leafed through the Bible as the bill's friends and foes pressured him.
Though at first he'd abstained from voting on the bill, he ultimately supported it. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger later vetoed it.
Harris' campaign manager, Ace Smith, said Friday that his candidate welcomes Torrico to the Democratic primary field. "District Attorney Harris is going to be going to the voters with really a historic candidacy, in the wake of the historic candidacy of Barack Obama, and we look forward to engaging in debate with everyone."
Former state Sen. Chuck Poochigian, R-Fresno, whom Brown defeated in 2006, has an active "Poochigian 2010" committee. Others rumored to be considering a GOP primary run include state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach; former U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott of Sacramento; and Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully.