Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D)

California District 34

Leadership: Democratic Caucus Chairman

N/A

becerra.house.gov

Biography

Elected: 1992, 12th term.

Born: January 26, 1958, Sacramento

Home: Eagle Rock

Education: Stanford U., B.A. 1980, J.D. 1984

Professional Career: Staff atty., Legal Assistance Corp. of Central MA; Dist. dir., CA Sen. Art Torres, 1986; CA dep. atty. gen., 1987–90.

Ethnicity: Hispanic/Latino

Religion: Catholic

Family: married (Carolina Reyes) , 3 children

Xavier Becerra, a Democrat first elected in 1992, became chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in late 2012 after serving as caucus vice chairman, making him the most prominent Latino in the House. He also is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

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. He still wears his father’s wedding ring as a reminder of his upbringing. 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 his retirement, 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. He won the primary with 32% of the vote to 22% for Quezada, and went on to defeat Republican Morry Waksberg in the general election with 58% of the vote. Becerra has been overwhelmingly reelected ever since.

In the House, Becerra has been a consistent liberal. As a member of the House Democratic leadership, he’s won praise for his hard-working, cerebral, and self-deprecating style. “I’m certainly not the best at politics,” he likes to say. Some Congressional Hispanic Caucus members dubbed him “Harvard,” although he did not attend that school. 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, a post that gave him a role in setting the party’s legislative agenda. In a 2008 leadership shuffle, Becerra ran for vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, and with Pelosi’s help, defeated Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, 175-67. “When you’re in leadership, you’re in a different position than a rank-and-file member trying to push something, because you’re having to convince your colleagues to go,” Becerra told CQ Roll Call in 2014. “I’ve learned to be pragmatic, but I don’t sacrifice my principles, my values.”

Pelosi in November 2014 named New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, an acolyte of Becerra's when he first came to the House, to head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Pelosi also put Becerra on the presidential Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction panel in 2010 and the bipartisan congressional “super committee” that sought in vain to reach a deal on the issue a year later. But he has not always seen eye-to-eye with his mentor; she was reportedly angry in 2009 when he intimated to Progressive Caucus members that the leadership abandoned a government-run “public option” for the health care overhaul bill too quickly. “I understand I have tire tracks on my back from Xavier throwing me under the bus,” Pelosi reportedly said.

President Barack Obama also recognized Becerra as a standout and offered him the post of U.S. trade representative in 2008. 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 and urged him to get behind a comprehensive immigration bill. He acknowledged in 2010 that Latinos regarded Obama with “a lot of suspicion” because of his failure to make the issue a priority in his first term. Campaigning for Obama in October 2012, however, Becerra laid the blame on House Republicans. “If it were up to the president and to Democrats, we’d have comprehensive immigration reform today,” he told reporters on a conference call. He traveled the country to talk to Hispanic audiences on Obama’s behalf, regularly pointing out Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s tough stance against illegal immigrants and his support from immigration hard-liners like Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King.

In the 113th Congress (2013-14), Becerra was part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers that discussed a potential way to address immigration reform. He remained publicly upbeat about the prospects of a bill, but when Obama opted to issue a post-election executive order to provide temporary relief to some illegal immigrants, Becerra became a staunch administration defender. When Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso complained on Fox News about the move, Becerra retorted: "I think the president has been very patient. He's been waiting a year and a half for the House Republicans to act on the bill that the Senate passed on a bipartisan basis."

Becerra was the first Hispanic to win a seat on Ways and Means, and in 2015 assumed the ranking-member slot on the panel dealing with Social Security. He 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 a 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. “Trade has to be sold as something that’s good for us,” he told The Washington Post in 2007.

During the health care debate in 2009, he and Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., convened a bipartisan group of lawmakers that sought in vain to find common ground on the issue. After Obama won reelection, he lashed out at Republicans for being unwilling to accept tax increases on the wealthy during negotiations on a tax and spending bill aimed at avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff. “The Republican plan is almost as if the Republicans didn’t watch the last two years of campaigning in the election,” he told CNN.

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 commission convened in 2009, and issued a set of recommendations that became the basis for a bill that Becerra and other prominent Hispanics introduced two years later.

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. He easily won reelection to Congress in 2012 in the newly redrawn 34th District, with 85.6% of the vote. In January 2015, he said he was seriously considering a bid for retiring Democrat Barbara Boxer's Senate seat.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-6235

(202) 225-2202

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1226
Washington, DC 20515-0534

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-6235

(202) 225-2202

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1226
Washington, DC 20515-0534

DISTRICT OFFICE

(213) 481-1425

(213) 483-1427

350 South Bixel Street Suite 120
Los Angeles, CA 90017-1418

DISTRICT OFFICE

(213) 481-1425

(213) 483-1427

350 South Bixel Street Suite 120
Los Angeles, CA 90017-1418

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 71584
Los Angeles, CA 90071

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 71584
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Staff Leadership Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Sean McCluskie
Chief of Staff

Kwabena Nsiah
Policy Advisor

Acquisitions

Esther Oh
Tax Counsel; Legislative Director

esther.oh@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-6235

Aerospace

Johanna Montiel
Legislative Correspondent

Agriculture

Dustin Sifford
Legislative Assistant

Animal Rights

Johanna Montiel
Legislative Correspondent

Appropriations

Esther Oh
Tax Counsel; Legislative Director

esther.oh@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-6235

Arts

Johanna Montiel
Legislative Correspondent

Banking

Esther Oh
Tax Counsel; Legislative Director

esther.oh@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-6235

Census

Liz Saldivar
District Director

Education

Dustin Sifford
Legislative Assistant

Emilio Mendez
Legislative Assistant

Environment

Johanna Montiel
Legislative Correspondent

Finance

Esther Oh
Tax Counsel; Legislative Director

esther.oh@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-6235

Govt Ops

Dustin Sifford
Legislative Assistant

Esther Oh
Tax Counsel; Legislative Director

esther.oh@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-6235

Emilio Mendez
Legislative Assistant

Liz Saldivar
District Director

Health

Sean McCluskie
Chief of Staff

Homeland Security

Emilio Mendez
Legislative Assistant

Housing

Esther Oh
Tax Counsel; Legislative Director

esther.oh@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-6235

Emilio Mendez
Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Insurance

Esther Oh
Tax Counsel; Legislative Director

esther.oh@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-6235

Labor

Esther Oh
Tax Counsel; Legislative Director

esther.oh@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-6235

Liz Saldivar
District Director

Medicare

Sean McCluskie
Chief of Staff

Military

Dustin Sifford
Legislative Assistant

Native Americans

Esther Oh
Tax Counsel; Legislative Director

esther.oh@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-6235

Science

Johanna Montiel
Legislative Correspondent

Seniors

Esther Oh
Tax Counsel; Legislative Director

esther.oh@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-6235

Small Business

Emilio Mendez
Legislative Assistant

Tax

Esther Oh
Tax Counsel; Legislative Director

esther.oh@mail.house.gov
(202) 225-6235

Technology

Emilio Mendez
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Transportation

Emilio Mendez
Legislative Assistant

Veterans

Dustin Sifford
Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Xavier Becerra
Votes: 120,367
Percent: 85.62%
Stephen Smith
Votes: 20,223
Percent: 14.38%
2012 PRIMARY
Xavier Becerra
Votes: 27,939
Percent: 77.31%
Stephen Smith
Votes: 5,793
Percent: 16.03%
Howard Johnson
Votes: 2,407
Percent: 6.66%
2010 GENERAL
Xavier Becerra
Votes: 76,363
Percent: 83.82%
Stephen Smith
Votes: 14,740
Percent: 16.18%
2010 PRIMARY
Xavier Becerra
Votes: 20,550
Percent: 88.03%
Sal Genovese
Votes: 2,795
Percent: 11.97%
2008 GENERAL
Xavier Becerra
Votes: 110,955
Percent: 100.0%
2008 PRIMARY
Xavier Becerra
Votes: 18,127
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (84%), 2008 (100%), 2006 (100%), 2004 (80%), 2002 (81%), 2000 (83%), 1998 (81%), 1996 (72%), 1994 (66%), 1992 (58%)

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