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Democrats tap John Perez as next Assembly speaker today [Updated]

December 10, 2009 | 12:09 pm

[Updated at 2:40 p.m.: Assembly Democrats this afternoon tapped John A. Perez to be the chamber's next leader, a boost that would make him the first openly gay lawmaker to hold the powerful post.

Perez emerged from an afternoon meeting of the chamber's Democrats locking arms with his chief rival, Assemblyman Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) and the current leader, Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles).

“It's obviously an incredibly moving experience to have the unanimous support of my colleagues,” Perez said of his fellow Democrats.]

Perez, a cousin of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has served just a single year in the Legislature. As a result, he will be eligible to serve as Assembly speaker for up to five years – one of the longest tenures in the influential position since term limits capped Assembly service at six years.

A timetable for when he will replace Bass has not been set. Bass helped corral support for Perez last week, in part to fend off De Leon’s attempt to assume the speakership immediately.

A full vote of the Assembly to formally elect Perez as speaker has not been scheduled.

-- Eric Bailey and Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento