California Assembly Seal

Democrat to be first from S.D. in the post
By Michael Gardner
Jan. 22, 2014 – Updated6:36 p.m.

San Diego’s Toni Atkins on Wednesday was elected as the next Assembly speaker — a powerful post that will put her in the position to directly negotiate compromises with Gov. Jerry Brown as the state confronts complex and controversial issues from the budget to the drought to education.

Atkins’ elevation is groundbreaking in three ways: She will become the first Assembly speaker from San Diego, the first lesbian to hold the gavel and the third woman to do so.

Atkins, a Democrat who is in her fourth year in the Assembly, will take control in the spring, replacing outgoing Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles. Pérez will be termed-out and is running for state controller.

In a statement, Atkins said San Diego is likely to benefit from her new prominence, but not at the expense of other areas of the state.

“As the state’s second largest city, San Diego has long played an important role in shaping California’s future, but it cannot be denied that having a speaker of the Assembly from our area will raise our profile even higher,” she said. “However, the speaker of the Assembly must ensure that the needs and interests of every part of the state are addressed and I am committed to that statewide perspective. Nevertheless, San Diego will always be my home.”

In a later interview, Atkins, 51, said she has no changes in mind and plans to carry out the agenda set by Assembly Democrats, including efforts to shore up the state’s budget reserves, continuing to implement the federal Affordable Health Care Act — known as Obamacare — and responding to the drought.

Democratic Assembly members voted unanimously for Atkins during a closed-door caucus lunch Wednesday, culminating weeks of internal struggles over who would take the position.

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