- If incumbent Becerra is confirmed as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services, Gov. Newsom will appoint his successor.
California Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) is jockeying to become the next Attorney General of California. The position opened up after the incumbent Xavier Becerra was named President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for his Secretary of Health and Human Services.
If Becerra is confirmed, Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint the state’s next attorney general— and Kalra thinks it should be him. A Democrat, Kalra represents Assembly District 27, which encompasses most of San Jose, including downtown and the East Side.
Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents California’s 17th Congressional District, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, tweeted in support of Kalra, “@Ash_Kalra – would be a phenomenal choice for AG given his record fighting got criminal justice reform, his service as a public defender, and his steadfast support for working families. He’s a great progressive choice!”
The Assemblyman told San José Spotlight that his legislative experience combined with more than a decade of service as a public defender sets him apart, and gives him a unique stance on criminal justice reform.
“It’s really important that we have an attorney general that is truly progressive and is looking to lead an agency that will protect Californians,” Kalra said. “That means being aggressive against corporations that are polluting or taking advantage of workers, hospitals that may be taking advantage of patients and creating a criminal justice system that truly focuses on public safety, not simply incarceration.”
Kalra added that creating a more equitable criminal justice system that holds individuals, law enforcement and the judicial system accountable is paramount for public safety.
Earlier this year, Kalra authored a bill signed by Newsom known as the Racial Justice Act, which prohibits the use of race, ethnicity or national origin as a basis for a conviction or sentence.
“Clearly, the manner in which California previously handled criminal justice did not make us safer,” Kalra said, reflecting on his time as a public defender and an assemblyman. “It just locked up a lot of poor people for many, many years. I think that we can be safer by ensuring that our criminal justice system is applied equally.”
Kalra’s strategy for criminal justice reform emphasizes prevention. He told San Jose Spotlight, that California’s “revolving door” in and out of prison has only served to victimize communities. To eliminate the revolving door, Kalra said the state needs to support previously incarcerated individuals — especially youth — to ensure they don’t commit crimes again.
California also needs to invest money and resources into those who have been a victim of “unchecked corporate greed” and “egregious income inequality” statewide, Kalra added. He’s committed to not accepting corporate or law enforcement money.
Kalra on the first day of the 2021-22 Regular Session introduced the controversial Assembly Joint Resolution 1 (AJR 1) calling for the U.S. Congress to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. The federal law enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security has been mired in controversy over its culture of abuse, deceptive practices, and inhumane detention and deportation activities.
Kalra’s other hot-button issue is the climate crisis. Kalra said the office must be aggressive in combating climate change by enforcing regulations on industrial polluters and supporting green policies.
Kalra served on the San Jose City council for eight years before being elected to the state Assembly in 2016. The first Indian-American to serve in the California Legislature, he’s now in his third term. If appointed attorney general, he would be the second Indian-American in the position, following Harris.
Kalra was a deputy public defender in Santa Clara County for 11 years prior to the City Council stint.
If Newsom doesn’t choose Kalra, the District 27 representative plans to happily “stay right where he is” in the State Assembly and continue to push a progressive agenda.
In the past four years Kalra has had 32 bills signed into law.
“For someone who never even planned on being an elected official, to now be in the position I’m in and to have the opportunity to chime in on such important issues that have affected 40 million Californians is by itself an honor,” Kalra told Spotlight. “And the idea that I could build even more influence over improving the lives of my constituents is quite humbling.”
California’s Asian Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus has urged Governor Newsom “to appoint an outstanding Asian Pacific Islander attorney as California’s next Attorney General.”
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.