California to Elect First Female, LGBT Senate leader

Toni Atkins (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

As Democrat seats in the California legislature have fallen to sex scandal, the ruling party is preparing to put its first female and first LGBT Senate leader in power.

Democrat Toni Atkins is the former State Assembly Speaker-turned-State Senator who is about to be made the Senate president pro Tem, according to the Associated Press. The San Diego Democrat will take over for fellow Democrat Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), who is running for U.S. Senate.

Sexual misconduct cost Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) his seat and Democrats their supermajority in February. Ahead of a rare expulsion vote on allegations of sexual misconduct, Mendoza stepped down but is running again for the same seat, according to an AP report that notes allegations of an extensive culture of suppressing sexual harassment complaints.

Separately, Democrat Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) could be recalled over a vote for the gas tax last year.

Atkins, a native of “Appalachian Virginia,” became a healthcare administrator in San Diego before her political career, according to the AP. She spent six years in the Assembly before what is now her first four-year term in the state Senate. She will become the State Senate’s first woman and first lesbian Senate president pro tem. Atkins told the AP not to expect “any big pronouncements” about her tenure.

Atkins co-sponsored a bill in early 2017 to take California to a stand-alone, single-payer health insurance system. In March 2015, Atkins led a group of nine California Democrat legislators, academics, and state agricultural representatives to the communist nation Cuba after then-President Barack Obama lifted restrictions on travel there..

Atkins also co-sponsored a bill instituting additional fees and taxes on real estate with the stated purpose of providing subsidies for affordable housing. She has come under criticism for conflicts of interest in past efforts to push affordable housing because her wife’s consultant group benefits from affordable housing initiatives.

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