The new state law giving the attorney general a pivotal role in police shootings also heightened interest in the appointment, as civil rights advocates pushed the governor to name someone who would aggressively investigate police misconduct, while law enforcement groups lobbied for a traditional law-and-order candidate.
Against that backdrop, the attorney general vacancy was less a political plum than an opportunity to disappoint factions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had urged Mr. Newsom to appoint Representative Adam Schiff, who has long aspired to statewide office, and who, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, managed Mr. Trump’s first impeachment. Mr. Newsom also was urged by various groups to name an African-American, a woman, a member of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, another Latino or an Asian-American or Pacific Islander.
Supporters of other candidates noted that Mr. Newsom had already made history with several appointments: In November, he appointed Martin Jenkins, who is African-American and openly gay, to the California Supreme Court. In December, as Ms. Harris was about to be inaugurated, he named California’s secretary of state, Alex Padilla, to serve the remainder of her term in the U.S. Senate, the first Latino in California history to hold that office.
Later the same day, he appointed Shirley Weber, who represented San Diego in the State Assembly, as California’s first African-American secretary of state.
Mr. Bonta, who has never campaigned outside the Bay Area, will have to run statewide in two years for re-election, as will the governor’s appointees for Senate and secretary of state and the governor himself, if he is not recalled in special election expected later this year.
State ethics watchdogs last year also questioned Mr. Bonta’s use of a nonprofit to raise money for other nonprofits where his wife worked — an aggressive but legal maneuver that prompted an author of California’s Political Reform Act to recommend a change in the state law.
A group of lawmakers and local elected officials renewed their push for Mr. Newsom to appoint an Asian-American or Pacific Islander to the post following last week’s shooting in Atlanta. They said that amid a rise in anti-Asian violence and harassment, the state’s “top cop” should understand the nuances and concerns of diverse communities, many members of whom may not trust law enforcement officers.
California, they said, should be a model for addressing those concerns.
“We need leadership across our state and the nation to take action,” David Chiu, a member of the Assembly, said in a virtual news conference. “We need to stand up against these hate crimes.”
Jill Cowan contributed reporting from Los Angeles.