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California Senate Leader Toni Atkins to Step Down, Sen. Mike McGuire to Succeed

Sen. Mike McGuire to Replace Atkins as California Senate Leader

Toni Atkins, the leader of the California Senate, announced on Monday that she will be stepping down from her position next year. This brings an end to her tenure as the first woman to lead the upper legislative chamber of the nation’s most populous state. Sen. Mike McGuire, a Democrat representing the North Coast region of California, will take over from Atkins as the Senate’s president pro tempore.

Atkins made the announcement during a press conference, where she stood alongside McGuire and the majority of the Senate Democratic Caucus. The show of unity starkly contrasted the leadership battle that engulfed the state Assembly last year. Atkins cannot seek re-election due to term limits and is set to leave the Senate at the end of next year. The caucus chose to disclose the transition now to avoid a prolonged campaign for a successor, which they deemed unfavorable for both the Senate and the people they represent.

The leader of the California Senate holds a position of immense power in state politics. They act as the primary negotiator between the Senate, the governor, and the Assembly speaker regarding crucial legislation and the state’s annual operating budget, which exceeds $300 billion. Atkins is one of only three individuals in history to have held both top spots in the Legislature. She has been leading the Senate since 2018 after serving as the speaker of the state Assembly from 2014 to 2016.

McGuire, who was elected to the Senate in 2014, is known for his vocal opposition to Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest utility in the country. The company’s equipment has been linked to numerous devastating wildfires that have resulted in multiple fatalities and the destruction of thousands of homes. In 2019, McGuire took on former President Donald Trump by sponsoring a law that mandated presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns to appear on the California ballot. Although the courts invalidated the portion of the law related to presidential candidates, it still applies to those running for governor.

Praising Atkins as “a California trailblazer,” McGuire pledged to continue her work, with a particular focus on climate issues, housing, and access to abortion. However, he emphasized that Atkins still held the position of authority within the Senate. This unity of leadership was stressed by McGuire, who assured that the next three weeks, involving the final days of the Legislative session and voting on numerous bills, would proceed smoothly, successfully, and with a concentrated effort on the welfare of the Golden State.

Besides his energy and dedication, McGuire’s rise to the Senate’s top post brings another notable aspect to the Legislature. With Assembly speaker Robert Rivas, representing a district in the agricultural Central Coast region, and now McGuire, whose district extends from the northern tip of the San Francisco Bay to the Oregon border, the predominantly rural parts of California gain increased representation in positions of power. This marks a departure from the traditional concentration of political influence in the densely populated urban areas of Southern California and the San Francisco Bay.

McGuire’s term in office will be relatively brief as he is bound by term limits and will have to step down after 2026. The Democratic Party currently holds control of 32 out of the 40 seats in the state Legislature, granting them complete authority over the passage of bills. State Sen. Brian Jones, the Republican leader, expressed confidence in McGuire, highlighting his respect for differing viewpoints and willingness to collaborate across party lines.

In summary, California Senate leader Toni Atkins will be relinquishing her role, with Sen. Mike McGuire poised to take her place as the president pro tempore. McGuire has vowed to continue her work, focusing on key issues such as climate, housing, and reproductive rights. With their combined leadership, the California Senate endeavors to steer the state toward progress and unity.

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