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Xavier Becerra, surprise choice to lead HHS, is ‘the Latino Joe Biden’

Mr. Becerra also established a state-level environmental justice office, the first of its kind, focused on the uneven effect of pollution and other forms of environmental damage on the health of the most vulnerable communities.

And he settled a landmark antitrust case against Sutter Health, a network of northern California doctors and hospitals, which agreed to pay $ 575 million in damages and monitor its business operations for 10 years. The lawsuit originally filed by a Grocery Workers Union Health Plan claimed Sutter’s anti-competitive behavior was driving up healthcare costs.

The lawsuit was a “paradigm case” on behalf of consumers, said Matt Cantor, an attorney at Constantine Cannon, a New York-based firm who worked with Mr. Becerra’s office on the lawsuit. The fact that Mr. Becerra chose to bring it, he said, “shows that he is very concerned about what the average American family and the average American employer have to pay in health insurance premiums.

A native of Sacramento, Mr. Becerra is the son of immigrant parents; her mother emigrated from Mexico as a young woman and her father was born in Sacramento but raised in Tijuana. They married at 18 and moved to California, where the eldest Mr. Becerra worked picking vegetables and working in construction – an experience that friends say will shape how Mr. Becerra occupies his life. post of health secretary.

“I think it gives him a certain perspective, a certain humility and an appreciation for working people, for ordinary people,” said Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who said Mr. Becerra l ‘had mentored as well as other Latin American newcomers. American parliament. “And when you talk to Xavier, you see he’s not a pretentious person.

At McClatchy High School in Sacramento, he was a high performing player whose extracurricular activities included golf, which he taught himself to play, and a leadership group focused on conflict resolution. “He was a really well-rounded guy – an athlete and a nerd and a leader,” said Karen Skelton, a California political consultant who went to school with him.

He was the first in his family to attend college, graduating from Stanford University in 1980 and Stanford Law School in 1984. In interviews, he said he applied to the school. elite only because he had filled out a blank request that a friend rejected. , and that it wasn’t until he drove with his mother to affluent Palo Alto that he realized his family was not middle class. There he met his wife, Carolina Reyes, who is now an obstetrician specializing in high risk pregnancies.