LOS ANGELES, California — Breaking with tradition, Democratic Senator Kevin de Leon held an elaborate and expensive swearing-in ceremony with over 2,000 invited guests at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Wednesday.
De Leon was celebrating the first time in over 130 years that a Latino was selected to head the California Senate.
“While it is an inauguration, it also is a fairly down-to-earth one when you really think about it,” said Roger Salazar, according to the Associated Press. Salazar is the spokesman for the California Latino Caucus Foundation, which paid for the approximately $50,000 cost of the event.
Following suit with Wednesday’s grand ceremony, the invitation for the event uses language that is typically reserved for presidents and governors. It reads “Inauguration of Kevin de Leon.” According to the AP, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was the only politician in the Assembly or Senate, other than De Leon, to refer to his swearing-in as an “inauguration.”
The swearing-in ceremony for Senate president pro tempore is usually held at the state Capitol and is relatively low key. The AP pointed out that Villaraigosa is the only other exception to this, as his swearing-in ceremony as assembly speaker in 1998 featured a mariachi band.
All of the tickets for Wednesday’s Walt Disney Hall event were provided for free to guests, and only 200 of the 2,000 invitees were actual officeholders. The list reportedly included the state attorney general and insurance commissioner.
The remaining 1,800 tickets were reportedly provided to community groups, activists, and others.
According to De Leon’s far-less-popular opponent and fellow Democrat Steve Choi, the swearing-in “is less about seating the incoming Senate president and more about seating the big money lobbyists ever closer to the power center of the California political system.”
Choi, whose name will appear on the November ballot, told the AP that Wednesday’s event shows how out of touch the Democratic Party is with voters, and he said that referring to it as an inauguration shows “a certain arrogance.”
Wednesday’s bash arrived on the heels of a California Democratic Party-sponsored fundraiser on Tuesday evening where tickets went for up to $50,000. The celebration reportedly came with words of advice from the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Jon Coupal, who said Senate leaders should “be extra careful not to be engaging in excess of any kind.”