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Monday, February 17, 2014

Toni Atkins prepares for Assembly speakership

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For Toni Atkins, a coal miner’s daughter and the first in her family to graduate from college, the road from Virginia coal country to San Diego to Speaker of the state Assembly has been long and winding.
Atkins, a San Diego Democrat who said she can “really appreciate the depths and the breadth of the people who live in California,” was chosen the next speaker in a closed-door caucus of Democrats, who control the 80-member Assembly with a supermajority. She currently serves as the Assembly’s majority leader.
She will succeed Speaker John Pérez, a former L.A.-area labor activist, who is termed out this year and is running for state controller. Atkins, like Pérez, is openly gay, although her sexual orientation has drawn relatively little notice in the Capitol.
Pérez served as Atkins’ mentor, she said.
“I feel really fortunate the speaker has given me the opportunity to be both the Majority Whip and the Majority Leader,” Atkins said.
She’ll be leading the lower house despite concerns – at least in the north state – that an old tradition over equitable leadership distribution between Northern and Southern California.
“For 40 years there has been an unspoken — and unbroken — rule that Southern California splits leadership of the Legislature with the Bay Area and greater Northern California. This year, Southern California leaders could seize complete control of the...
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