"I think he will be a great leader. He's adept at both the policy and the political side," Steinberg said as he and de León emerged from a meeting of Senate Democrats this afternoon, in which the majority party discussed leadership of the house but did not take a formal vote.
"It was a good conversation and the caucus embraced my message. I think we're well on our way. I support Kevin very strongly," Steinberg said.
Steinberg said he told fellow Democrats that he intends to remain the leader of the state Senate until his term ends in November, and that he will call for a vote on de Leon's leadership after the budget is complete in June. It remains unclear whether another candidate will emerge, although Steinberg said he doesn't anticipate anyone else jumping into the race.
"I'm looking forward to leading when my time comes up," said de León, D-Los Angeles.
"I'm deeply honored to have his support and the support of my colleagues. I love the Senate."
The announcement came a day after Sen. Mark DeSaulnier said he was pulling out of the race because he plans to run for Congress this year. The Democrat from Concord is running for the seat vacated by Rep. George Miller, who announced his retirement Monday.
De León said Tuesday that DeSaulnier had given him his support.
Both de León and Steinberg have been accused by their colleague, Sen. Ron Calderon, of being the focus of an FBI sting. They refuted the allegation again Tuesday, saying Calderon is the sole target of the federal corruption investigation.
PHOTO: Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, left, congratulates Sen. Kevin de León as they leave the Democratic caucus this afternoon. The Sacramento Bee/Laurel Rosenhall