California Republicans see chance to unseat Democratic AG

May 15, 2022, 9:10 AM | Updated: 9:28 am
FILE-- In this Aug. 17, 2021, file photo, California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks at a news co...

FILE-- In this Aug. 17, 2021, file photo, California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks at a news conference in Sacramento, Calif. Republicans think they have a chance this year to unseat an appointed state attorney general they say is too progressive even for California. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Republicans think they have a chance this year to unseat an appointed state attorney general they say is too progressive even for California, in part because they view him as soft on crime as that issue rises in importance for voters.

But first they must avoid dividing the party and perhaps alienating key independent voters during a primary campaign featuring three main candidates seeking to defeat Rob Bonta.

In California, the two top primary vote-getters advance to the November general election regardless of party affiliation. Bonta is the only Democrat and is considered a shoo-in to advance out of the June 7 primary.

Two Republicans are running and so is a district attorney who gave up her GOP affiliation four years ago and is running as an independent, a label some see as more inviting to voters in a state that overwhelmingly favors Democrats.

The race may show whether voters want a new direction after they previously eased criminal sentences to reduce prison crowding. And with little drama expected in the contests for California governor and U.S. Senate, it’s one of the most visible races this election year.

The job of California attorney general has been a launching pad for many — Earl Warren went on to become chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Edmund “Pat” Brown became governor and his son, Jerry, resurrected his political career by winning the office and then going on to become governor again more than three decades after first holding the job.

The two attorneys general before Bonta were Kamala Harris, who went on to the U.S. Senate and now is vice president, and Xavier Becerra, the Biden administration’s secretary of Health and Human Services.

California’s last Republican attorney general left office in 1999 and the party hasn’t won a statewide election since 2006. The GOP hopes to capitalize this year by drawing attention to what Republicans say are Democratic failures to curb violent crime and reduce homelessness.

The state GOP endorsed Nathan Hochman, a former assistant U.S. attorney general who says his goals are “to prevent crime, end the opioid epidemic, and tackle homelessness.”

Also running is Republican private attorney Eric Early, who was lead legal counsel for the unsuccessful effort to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom last year. Early finished last in a four-way primary election for attorney general in 2018.

Many law enforcement leaders are backing Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, who is running as a no-party-preference candidate. Schubert is best known for leading the effort to identify and successfully prosecute the Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo, a serial killer who avoided arrest for decades.

“It’s still very much Bonta’s race to lose,” said veteran Republican political consultant Mike Madrid, who is not involved in any of the campaigns. “He’s a Democrat with a ballot label that will say ‘attorney general’ in a very, very blue state.”

No independent has ever won statewide office in California and Madrid said Schubert needs to find a way to appeal to Democrats. “If she gets out of the primary with a significant share of the Democratic base, she probably wins the general,” he said.

Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College gives her “a real shot,” noting she is not affiliated with the far right of the GOP and that California voters have sometimes shown a criminal justice conservative streak, for instance by rejecting efforts to end cash bail and the death penalty.

Hochman has focused his campaign on fighting human trafficking, including by backing a stalled bipartisan bill that would label it a violent felony. He also proposes to coordinate prosecutions of traffickers statewide, seize their assets and begin a statewide human trafficking education campaign.

Rob Stutzman, the GOP consultant running Schubert’s campaign, said her history as a career prosecutor better resonates with voters of all political stripes who buy into her theme that California is in “chaos.”

“We must fix the mistakes of the woke and reckless reforms that are now wreaking havoc on all Californians,” Schubert said while accepting the endorsements of the union representing California Highway Patrol officers and the rank-and-file Peace Officers Research Association of California.

She said her decision to run as an independent was not politically motivated, arguing that “public safety is not an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ issue.”

Bonta leads the field in fundraising with $7 million, trailed by Schubert with $2.2 million, Hochman with $1.8 million and Early with $550,000.

This is Bonta’s first statewide election. Newsom appointed him attorney general in March 2021 after President Joe Biden tapped Becerra for the Cabinet post.

He previously was one of the state’s most progressive lawmakers, representing a San Francisco Bay Area district in the state Assembly, and calls himself “the people’s attorney. “

“On so many legal issues, California law is America’s last line of defense,” Bonta said in promoting his support for gun control, LTGBQ and abortion rights at a national level. “It’s why this race is so important this year.”

But he also said public safety “is and has been job No. 1, 2 and 3.”

The influential California Correctional Peace Officers Association backed Bonta, saying that he “has prioritized public safety.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


In this courtroom sketch, R. Kelly briefly addresses Judge Ann Donnelly during his sentencing in fe...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: How will R. Kelly sentence impact other trials?

CHICAGO (AP) — R. Kelly could be in his 80s before the singer is free again, based on a 30-year prison term imposed this week by a New York federal judge for parlaying his fame to sexually abuse young fans, including some who were children. And if the 55-year-old loses at three related trials in […]
21 hours ago
In this photo provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this 1942 Navy photo shows miners build...
Associated Press

Navy report: Multiple errors poisoned Pearl Harbor water

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) — A Navy investigation released Thursday revealed that shoddy management and human error caused fuel to leak into Pearl Harbor’s tap water last year, poisoning thousands of people and forcing military families to evacuate their homes for hotels. The investigation is the first detailed account of how jet fuel from the […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Police: Shooting in Newark wounds 9; all expected to survive

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Nine people, including a teenager, were wounded Thursday evening in gunfire outside a neighborhood grocery shop in Newark, police said. All of the victims are expected to survive and police are searching for a vehicle believed to have been involved in the shooting, Acting Newark Public Safety Director Raul Malave told […]
21 hours ago
Roberto Marquez adds a cross to a makeshift memorial at the site where officials more than 50 peopl...
Associated Press

US official: Migrants who died cleared inland checkpoint

The tractor-trailer at the center of a disastrous human-smuggling attempt that left 53 people dead had passed through an inland U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint with migrants inside the sweltering rig earlier in its journey, a U.S. official said Thursday.
21 hours ago
FILE - UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr., right, tries to get by Southern California forward Isaiah Moble...
Associated Press

Big Ten votes to add USC, UCLA as members starting in 2024

In a surprising and seismic shift in college athletics, the Big Ten voted Thursday to add Southern California and UCLA as conference members beginning in 2024. The expansion to 16 teams will happen after the Pac-12’s current media rights contracts with Fox and ESPN expire and make the Big Ten the first conference to stretch […]
21 hours ago
FILE—Plastic bottles of shampoo are displayed at Compton's Market in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, ...
Associated Press

California sets nation’s toughest plastics reduction rules

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Companies selling shampoo, food and other products wrapped in plastic have a decade to cut down on their use of the polluting material if they want their wares on California store shelves. Major legislation passed and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday aims to significantly reduce single-use plastic packaging in […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
California Republicans see chance to unseat Democratic AG