Bonta and Hochman advance from top-two primary for California attorney general

Incumbent Rob Bonta (D) and Nathan Hochman (R) advanced from the top-two primary for California attorney general on June 7, 2022. Bonta received 55% of the vote and Hochman received 18%.

In the weeks leading up to the election, Bonta, Eric Early (R), Hochman, and Anne Marie Schubert (I) led in media attention and fundraising. Daniel Kapelovitz (G) also ran in the primary. The Los Angeles Times‘ George Skelton said, “Whether [Bonta is] contested competitively in November may well hinge on whom voters select as his challenger.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) appointed Bonta on March 24, 2021. Bonta was a Democratic member of the California General Assembly, representing District 18 from 2012 until his appointment. According to Bonta’s campaign website, “As California’s Attorney General and California’s chief law officer, Bonta is the ‘attorney for the people’ and holds those who break the law – especially those in positions of power – accountable and wins justice for California families.”

Hochman served as assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California and assistant attorney general of the United States Department of Justice. Hochman also worked as a defense attorney, civil litigator, and appellate counsel. Hochman said his “360-degree perspective allows me to be in the best position to evaluate those who constitute true public safety threats and must be incarcerated from those who don’t pose such threats and can serve their debt to society through, for example, community service.”

California’s crime rate was an issue in the race, with other candidates criticizing Bonta’s record as attorney general. Hochman said there was “a spiral of lawlessness going on in our society” and Bonta was “not enforcing the laws that are on the books.” Responding to this criticism, Bonta said, “Public safety is, and has been, job No. 1, 2 and 3. I’m fully aware that in politics people like to take political shots that are not based on the facts.”

Politico’s Jeremy B. White said Bonta “embodies a broader tilt away from stringent criminal penalties, and his opponents have accused him of shifting too far in that direction,” but added that Bonta will “go into the general election contest with a likely financial advantage, a large Democratic voter registration edge and the unified support of California’s Democratic political establishment.”

Democrats have occupied the office of attorney general in California since 1999. Xavier Becerra (D) occupied the office before Bonta, serving from 2019 to 2021 when he was confirmed as U.S. secretary of health and human services.