Rep. Xavier Becerra (D)
Elected: 1992, 9th term.
Born: Jan. 26, 1958, Sacramento .
Home: Eagle Rock.
Education: Stanford U., B.A. 1980, J.D. 1984.
Family: Married (Carolina Reyes); 3 children.
Elected office: CA Assembly, 1990–92.
Professional Career: Staff atty., Legal Assistance Corp. of Central MA; Dist. dir., CA Sen. Art Torres, 1986; CA dep. atty. gen., 1987–90.
The congressman from the 31st District is Xavier Becerra, a Democrat first elected in 1992. Becerra (beh-SEH-ra) grew up in Sacramento. His mother was a Mexican immigrant, and his father, who was born in the United States, supported the family with construction and other jobs. Becerra worked his way through college and law school at Stanford University, becoming the first in his family to get a college degree. He married a Harvard Medical School graduate who became vice president of California’s largest health care foundation. Becerra started his career at a legal-services clinic in Massachusetts, doing work for mentally disabled clients. When he returned to California, Becerra was an aide to state Sen. Art Torres and then to Attorney General John Van de Kamp. In 1990, he was elected to the California Assembly. In 1992, when U.S. Rep. Edward Roybal, California’s first Latino congressman and a Democrat, announced that he was retiring, Becerra jumped into the race. His main competitor, Leticia Quezada, was a member of the Los Angeles school board. Becerra had the endorsements of Roybal and County Supervisor Gloria Molina. Becerra won the primary with 32% of the vote to 22% for Quezada. He went on to defeat Republican Morry Waksberg in the general election with 58% of the vote.
|Xavier Becerra (D)||Unopposed||($1,396,520)|
|Xavier Becerra (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (100%), 2004 (80%), 2002 (81%), 2000 (83%), 1998 (81%), 1996 (72%), 1994 (66%), 1992 (58%)
In the House, Becerra has been a consistent liberal. He has also been successful in moving into the House Democratic leadership. When Democrats won majority control of the House, fellow Californian and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave him the newly created position of assistant to the speaker, where he helped to set priorities for the party’s agenda and drive legislative decision-making. “A seat at the table has been priceless,” he said at the time. In the November 2008 leadership shuffle after Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., resigned to become White House chief of staff, Becerra sought to advance by running for one of the elected leadership posts (the assistant’s role was appointive). He ran for vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, and with Pelosi’s help, defeated Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, 175-67.
Becerra was also on the new Obama administration’s radar. In December 2008, he was offered the post of U.S. trade representative. But he declined after deciding that trade policy would not be a major White House priority in Obama’s early years. Becerra had been Obama’s campaign liaison to the Hispanic community.
Becerra is also on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. And the fact that he is at least nine years younger than any of the members with more seniority could put him in line for committee chairman in another decade or so. He is the committee’s first Hispanic member. Becerra has advocated tax changes to curtail the overseas exodus of jobs in the entertainment industry, including a tax credit for labor costs of independent film producers. He supported normalizing trade relations with China and won House approval of his resolution supporting reunification efforts between North and South Korea. His support for free-trade deals with Chile and Singapore led to local protests by union activists, and he demanded improvements in the labor standards in the Central American Free Trade Agreement in return for his support. Becerra also sponsored a bill that would forgive student loans for graduates who work as librarians in poor neighborhoods and another to assist low-income taxpayers in preparing their tax returns while protecting them from predatory loan providers.
In May 2008, Becerra won enactment of a bill establishing a commission to develop a national museum of the American Latino, which would be located on the National Mall and would be part of the Smithsonian Institution.
The one career setback for Becerra in recent years was his failed run for mayor of Los Angeles in 2001. He did not raise enough money to establish name recognition outside his district, and he was overshadowed by former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa. In the primary, Becerra finished fifth, with just 6% of the vote, far behind Villaraigosa’s 30% and James Hahn’s 25%. Hahn won the runoff. Among the 21% of voters who were Hispanic, Villaraigosa led Becerra 62%-17%. Post-election analyses noted that Becerra damaged his standing among Latino leaders with negative campaign telephone calls. Villaraigosa ran again in 2005 and defeated Hahn.