California Senate Democrats have chosen a new leader, the first woman to ever lead the chamber.
State Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) will replace Kevin de León as Senate president pro Tem, with a formal vote in January and a transition later next year. De León is termed out at the end of 2018 and is mounting a campaign for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein.
The selection of Atkins breaks ground in several ways:
- Atkins is first female California Senate President pro Tem
- She’s the first openly gay Senate leader
- According to legislative historian Alex Vassar, she’s the first former Assembly speaker to lead the Senate in more than 150 years – the third overall
- She’s also the first San Diego senator to lead the chamber in nearly 40 years
Atkins’s signature issue in the Legislature has been affordable housing. She’s also a co-author of the single-payer health care bill that passed the Senate last year before stalling in the Assembly.
In a statement, Atkins said she’s humbled by her colleagues’ support and will work, quote – “tirelessly and inclusively to keep California a place of opportunity for everyone.”