SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – California Governor Jerry Brown on Tuesday issued a battle-cry against U.S. President Donald Trump, swearing in a new attorney general expected to take on his administration and vowing to defend the state’s progressive laws against federal intrusion.
Without naming Trump, Brown, a Democrat, called signals from the days-old presidential administration “disturbing.” He promised to push back as Trump moves to enact campaign pledges to deport illegal immigrants and roll back climate protection.
“Let me be clear. We will defend every man, woman and child who has come here for a better life and contributed to the well- being of our state,” Brown said in his annual state of the state address in Sacramento.
As his first act of the day, Brown swore in veteran Democratic Congressman and lawyer Xavier Becerra as the state’s attorney general, replacing Kamala Harris, who was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Brown drew standing ovations from Democrats as well as Republicans for his speech, closing with a roaring reference to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, a song associated with the Union’s side during the Civil War.
“California is not turning back,” Brown cried. “Not now, not ever. His truth is marching on!”
“WAR WITH WASHINGTON”
Republicans, who make up just a third of legislators in the predominantly Democratic state, praised Brown’s passion but worried his rhetoric would alienate the new administration, putting funding for key programs at risk and lessening California’s influence.
“We’re going to go to war with Washington, D.C.,” said state Senator Jim Nielsen, who represents suburban Sacramento. “That’s not going to help California.”
Brown also called for civility after an election that he said exposed deep divisions in the country.
He praised Trump’s plan to spend federal money on infrastructure projects, crying “Amen to that!” and said “We all have our opinions, but for democracy to work, we have to trust each other.”
Becerra, addressing reporters after Brown’s speech, said he planned to meet in the next few days with attorneys-general from other states to plan strategy.
A longtime Washington insider adept at working both sides of the aisle, Becerra, who represented Los Angeles in Congress, said his first community meetings would be in the agricultural central valley, where poverty is high and voters more conservative.
He said he had already met with local sheriffs from around the state, and laid out priorities that also included enforcing state laws protecting consumers, victims of human trafficking and others.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Andrew Hay and James Dalgleish)