Just one day before stepping down from the California Senate’s top job as president pro tem, Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Kevin de Leon visited Stanislaus State Tuesday to talk about his campaign to replace Senator Dianne Feinstein this fall.
De Leon was first elected to the California Senate in 2010, and he currently represents the state’s 24th district in Los Angeles. He was elevated in 2014 to State Senate president pro tem, where he has served since, but on Wednesday will be replaced by California’s first female and first lesbian Senate leader, San Diego Sen. Toni Atkins.
“Since de Leon was elected, he has used his position to elevate progressive topics,” Stanislaus State Democratic Party Club vice president Adam Weber said.
The club, which was recently recognized as the top college Democrats club in California at the Democratic State Convention, has hosted a myriad of candidates this year who are hoping for glory come November, with de Leon being the most recent of a group that’s included those vying to replace Rep. Jeff Denham in the 10th Congressional district as well as gubernatorial candidates.
“Kevin has used his time to not just talk about legislation, but to actually get it done,” Weber said.
De Leon told the small crowd gathered at Stanislaus State that while he may be trying to jump from the State to the Federal level in politics, he will always have California’s best interests at heart.
“California stands at the forefront of a battle for our country’s soul against a President who doesn’t have one,” de Leon said. “Let me be clear, Turlockers, we’re not going to allow one electoral aberration to reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, our scientific advancement, our economic output and our sense of responsibility.”
De Leon’s remarks came just weeks after the Trump administration filed a lawsuit against the State of California to stop the legislature’s “sanctuary state” bills, and the Senate hopeful fired back at the President’s less-than-lenient immigration policies.
“In this great state, we celebrate who we are and we’re proud of where we come from,” de Leon said. “We celebrate our diversity. We don’t bag it, we don’t deport it and we sure as hell don’t wall it off — not in a great state like California.”
De Leon spoke of legislation he’s helped to pass during his time in the State Senate, like a higher minimum wage, equal pay for men and women doing the same work and some of the most, if not the most, ambitious climate change policies in the country.
While he’s accomplished a lot, there’s still more he hopes to do, de Leon said.
He hopes to combat the “school to prison pipeline,” or the disproportionate tendency of minors and young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds to become incarcerated. He wants to fight for the undocumented young adults who were brought illegally into the country, known as DREAMers. He wants to try and stop the war in the Middle East, he said, which has cost the U.S. nearly $5 trillion.
Audience members were able to ask de Leon questions, which varied from topics like homelessness and institutional racism to global warming and gun violence in schools.
Gun control is a particularly important issue for de Leon, and he shared why. Right before he was first sworn in to serve in State legislature, a young girl who lived a block away from his house was shot in the head in her kitchen as her mother did the dishes — the victim of a stray bullet meant for a gang member.
California is already leading the way on some of the country’s tightest gun regulations, and de Leon hopes to take that fight to the national level. Ammunition is what laws should be targeting, he said — not guns — and, “ghost guns,” which are guns without serial numbers, need to be eradicated from society.
“You can buy all the ammunition you want, no questions asked,” de Leon said. “There are no checks.
“Those are the things we need to clamp down on at the federal level.”
No matter what issue he’s fighting on, however, de Leon made one thing clear Tuesday evening: he’s fighting for California.
“I’ll fight for all Californians — even if they voted for Donald Trump. It doesn’t make a difference to me,” de Leon said. “It’s not just one person in the Central Valley, it’s not northern California versus southern California. It’s one California.”