SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Majority Democrats chose Assemblywoman Toni Atkins of San Diego on Wednesday to take over as Assembly speaker later this year, making it likely that the incoming leaders of both legislative chambers will come from the same half of California for the first time in nearly two decades.
Atkins was unanimously selected to the 80-member chamber's top post by the 55-member Democratic caucus.
An official vote by the full Assembly will take place in early spring. Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said the Assembly will then set a transition date. Perez previously said he planned to serve as speaker until after the budget is approved in June.
Atkins would be the first openly gay woman to serve as speaker, and she follows the first openly gay man in the post. Atkins was elected in 2010 and will be termed out in 2016.
In a statement posted to her Assembly website, Atkins said her priorities would include the drought, the state's business climate and education.
"I am humbled, grateful, and ready to get to work," she said.
In the 40-member Senate, Democrat Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles is in line to succeed Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, although there has been no formal vote.
It would be the first time since 1995 that both leaders are from the same region. At that time, Bill Lockyer of San Leandro led the Senate and Willie Brown of San Francisco was Assembly speaker. Lockyer is now the state treasurer.
Perez said he supported Atkins, the current majority leader, as his replacement.
"She is a strong leader on vital issues like increasing Californians' access to health care, creating jobs and strengthening our state's economy, and ensuring we honor the state's debt to our veterans," Perez said in a statement.