History is made this afternoon in California as Assembly Democrats chose Assemblyman John A. Pérez as their new speaker, making the first-term Democrat the first openly gay man to hold one of the most powerful posts in state government.
Assembly Dems "settled an internal fight" and "unanimously backed" the freshman Los Angeles legislator who chairs the Assembly Democratic Caucus. Pérez was challenged in the speakership race by Democratic Assemblyman Kevin De Leon, a fellow Hispanic lawmaker. The speaker-elect reportedly had the votes earlier this week and questions were raised as to why De Leon was publicly challenging Perez.
Perez, cousin of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, will replace current Speaker Karen Bass, who became the first black female speaker. Bass will be forced out of the Legislature by term limits next year.
The nomination now goes before the full Assembly, but the candidate with the most Democratic support usually wins because Democrats hold a majority of seats in the 80-member Assembly.