California state Senate leader says she will step down from leadership post

Aug 28, 2023, 7:07 PM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The leader of the California Senate said Monday she will step down from her leadership post, ending an historic run as the first woman and first openly gay person to lead the upper legislative chamber of the nation’s most populous state.

Toni Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego, said she will step down next year. Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat from the state’s North Coast region, will replace Atkins as the Senate’s president pro tempore.

Atkins made the announcement at a news conference with McGuire and most of the Senate Democratic Caucus standing behind her. The display of unity was in stark contrast to the leadership battle that embroiled the state Assembly last year, when new speaker Robert Rivas replaced former speaker Anthony Rendon.

Atkins cannot seek re-election because of term limits and must leave the Senate at the end of next year. She said the caucus chose to announce the transition now because “a long, drawn-out successor campaign would not be in the best interest of the Senate nor the people who we were elected to represent.”

“We have a lot of work to get through in the next few weeks,” Atkins said, referring to the chaotic final days of the Legislative session when lawmakers will vote on hundreds of bills. “This work does not mix well with internal caucus politics being at the top of everyone’s minds.”

The leader of the California Senate is one of the most powerful positions in state politics, acting as the body’s chief negotiator with the governor and the Assembly speaker on key legislation and the state’s more than $300 billion annual operating budget.

Atkins is one of only three people in history to hold both top spots in the Legislature. She has led the Senate since 2018. Before that, she was speaker of the state Assembly from 2014 to 2016.

McGuire was first elected to the Senate in 2014. He has been an outspoken critic of Pacific Gas & Electric, the nation’s largest utility, whose equipment has sparked a number of massive wildfires that have killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of homes.

In 2019, McGuire took on former Republican President Donald Trump by authoring a law that required candidates for president to disclose their tax returns as a condition of appearing on the ballot in California. The part of the law that applied to presidential candidates was ultimately struck down by the courts. But the law still applies to candidates for governor.

McGuire praised Atkins as “a California trailblazer” and pledged to carry on her work, including focusing on climate issues, housing and access to abortion. But McGuire made it clear Atkins was still in charge.

“There is one leader, one leader at a time. And our leader here in the California state Senate is Toni Atkins,” he said. “The pro tem and I, we are unified in our transition. And we can make this promise to each and every one of you. The next three weeks, getting these bills off the floor and into the governor’s desk is going to be smooth, successful and focused on the success of the Golden State.”

McGuire is known throughout the state Capitol for his seemingly unending energy, often referred to by his nickname of the “Energizer Bunny,” according to veteran lobbyist Chris Micheli.

His ascension to the Senate’s top post means the Legislature will have two leaders who represent mostly rural parts of California, a rare occurrence in a state where political power has historically been concentrated in the dense urban areas of Southern California and the San Francisco Bay.

Rivas, who took over as Assembly speaker earlier this summer, represents a district in the state’s mostly agricultural Central Coast region. McGuire’s district stretches from the northern tip of the San Francisco Bay to the Oregon border.

“I think these are parts of the state that deserve a little more attention and focus,” said Jennifer Fearing, a longtime lobbyist whose firm — Fearless Advocacy — represents nonprofit organizations. “I look forward to it, what the difference their leadership can make on addressing longstanding disparities.”

McGuire’s term in office will be a short one. He is required to leave office after 2026 because of term limits.

Democrats control 32 of the 40 seats in the state Legislature, giving them total control of what bills can pass. State Sen. Brian Jones, the Republican leader, said McGuire has “respect for differing viewpoints.”

“He has shown a willingness to work in a bipartisan manner and we are excited to continue this cooperation,” Jones said.

United States News

southern Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly...

Associated Press

Trial of a southern Arizona rancher charged in fatal shooting of unarmed migrant goes to the jury

Closing arguments were made against a southern Arizona rancher accused of shooting an undocumented migrant on his land to death on Thursday.

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Unfair labor complaint filed against Notre Dame over athletes

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — An unfair labor complaint was filed Thursday against the University of Notre Dame for classifying college athletes as “student-athletes.” The complaint was filed with the National Labor Relations Board by a California-based group calling itself the College Basketball Players Association. It said Notre Dame is engaging in unfair labor practices […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

US deports about 50 Haitians to nation hit with gang violence, ending monthslong pause in flights

MIAMI (AP) — The Biden administration sent about 50 Haitians back to their country on Thursday, authorities said, marking the first deportation flight in several months to the Caribbean nation struggling with surging gang violence. The Homeland Security Department said in a statement that it “will continue to enforce U.S. laws and policy throughout the […]

5 hours ago

Donald Trump's hush money trial: 12 jurors selected...

Associated Press

Although 12 jurors were picked for Donald Trump’s hush money trial, selection of alternates is ongoing

A jury of 12 people was seated Thursday in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial. The proceedings are close to opening statements.

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Legislation allowing doctor-assisted suicide narrowly clears Delaware House, heads to state Senate

DOVER, Del. (AP) — A bill allowing doctor-assisted suicide in Delaware narrowly cleared the Democrat-led House on Thursday and now goes to the state Senate for consideration. The bill is the latest iteration of legislation that has been repeatedly introduced by Newark Democrat Paul Baumbach since 2015, and it is the only proposal to make […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

California governor pledges state oversight for cities, counties lagging on solving homelessness

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Nearly $200 million in grant money will go to California cities and counties to move homeless people from encampments into housing, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday while also pledging increased oversight of efforts by local governments to reduce homelessness. The Democratic governor said he will move 22 state personnel from a […]

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

California state Senate leader says she will step down from leadership post