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The contest to become California's next Assembly speaker could be over, with multiple lawmakers and staffers telling The Bee that Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, has secured enough votes to lead Assembly Democrats.

The race turned decisively in Atkins's favor this weekend, sources said, when key lawmakers decided to lend their support to Atkins. Currently the majority floor leader, Atkins would become the first openly gay woman to serve as speaker.

A San Francisco-based organization that just last week backed Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, sent out a release praising Atkins.

"The Bay Area Council congratulates Assemblymember Toni Atkins of San Diego, whom we understand has secured the votes to become the next Speaker of the California Assembly," Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council, said in the statement.

The Bay Area Council's endorsement of Atkins marked a swift reversal from the group's decision last week to promote Gordon in an effort to ensure the next speaker hailed from Northern California. That came right after Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, anointed Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, as his successor.

There had been speculation that de León's elevation would come at the expense of Assembly speaker candidates from Southern California. But former and current lawmakers discounted the notion that the Legislature must have one leader from Northern California and one from Southern California.

Both the Senate and the Assembly need to elect new leaders this year, with Steinberg and his Assembly counterpart, Speaker John A. Pérez of Los Angeles, forced out by term limits.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego speaks with Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles as the Assembly members wait for bills from the Senate side at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Friday, June 14, 2013.



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