Torrico to launch campaign for Attorney General

Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico says he’ll formally announce Monday his candidacy for state Attorney General in 2010.

“As Majority Leader I’ve been involved with the budget more than ever before… and in these last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about where the state is,” Torrico, D-Newark, told me a few minutes ago. “Our state is clearly going in the wrong direction, we’ve got some challenges ahead of us, were going to spend more on prisons than on higher education in two years.”

“We need to have a new conversation in California about what our priorities are, and the Attorney General is an office that should impact law enforcement… and also a wide range of other issues I’m passionate about,” from civil rights to consumer rights and beyond, he said.

Torrico joins a 2010 Democratic primary field for AG already consisting of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris – already hard at work raising money from many of the same deep-pocketed donors with whom she rubbed elbows during the Obama campaign – and Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo (who ran against Jerry Brown in the 2006 primary).

Other Assembly Democrats reportedly considering runs for AG in 2010 include Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara.

Torrico said he has a “broad vision for the direction the state needs to go in,” having been not only a legislative champion of law enforcement and public safety but also of creating middle class jobs; the Attorney General, he notes, has a big impact on California’s business climate.

And from a political standpoint, he said, he enters the race with $650,000 cash on hand – a sum far in excess of any of the other contenders, and a good down payment on a race that could cost $5 million or more. “If you look at the reports over the past four years, you see I have the track record of being able to raise the money,” he said.

More after the jump…

The married father of two is the son of Bolivian immigrants and his mother is of Japanese descent, so he has been the first California lawmaker to belong to two ethnic caucuses: the Legislative Latino Caucus and the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus. That should stand him in good stead with crucial voting blocs, he said, as should his status as a Silicon Valley Democrat.

Torrico said either today or Monday he’ll roll out a package of “lessons learned” bills based on the public’s loss of faith in the Legislature through this budget fiasco. He said he’d already been working on a bill to withhold lawmakers’ per diems if the budget is late, “long before Abel Maldonado came to the dance.” He’ll also pitch bills to ban all gifts to lawmakers from lobbyists and lobbyist employers, and to enact a fundraising blackout during budget negotiations.

Elected to the Assembly in 2004, Torrico – who’ll celebrate his 40th birthday next month – will be term-limited out in 2010. His 20th Assembly District includes Fremont, Newark, Union City and Milpitas, and parts of San Jose, Hayward, Castro Valley and Pleasanton. He was a Newark City Councilman from 2001 through 2004. And for nearly a decade before his Assembly election, he was a union lawyer – experience he put to work first as chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security, and then later as chair of the Governmental Organization Committee and his caucus leadership role.

He counts among his proudest legislative achievements laws that provide 60 days of notice for no-fault evictions of renters; removing barriers to development of affordable housing for working families; preventing foster children from losing health-care benefits; and requiring disclosure of payment data and amounts by health plans.

Torrico back in 2005 had spoken of how the debate over same-sex marriage legislation put him in conflict between his own civil-rights and born-again Christian beliefs; he said he prayed and leafed through the Bible as the bill’s friends and foes pressured him. Though at first he’d abstained from voting on the bill, he ultimately supported it; Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger later vetoed it.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.