LOS ANGELES (AP) – Two-thousand guests have been invited to an expensive soiree Wednesday to celebrate the swearing-in of the first Latino to head the California Senate in more than a century.
Democratic Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles is breaking tradition by holding the ceremony at Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
The invitation lists the event as the “Inauguration of Kevin de Leon,” using language usually reserved for presidents and governors.
The California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation, which receives donations from special interests seeking influence in the Legislature, is picking up the estimated $50,000 tab.
Tickets are free and have been distributed to community groups, activists and others.
Previous ceremonies took place at the state Capitol and have been relatively low-key.
About 200 officeholders have been invited to witness the swearing-in of de Leon as state Senate president pro tempore. The state attorney general, insurance commissioner and state superintendent of public instruction all plan to attend.
The event follows a California Democratic Party fundraiser on Tuesday night with a top ticket going for $50,000. The party declined to disclose how much was raised until it files its official campaign finance reports.
The swearing-in party comes during a year when two Democratic state senators were suspended after being charged in separate federal corruption cases, a third resigned after being sentenced to jail for perjury, and another faces DUI charges after a night of drinking that included late-night revelry with Latino caucus members inside the Capitol.
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said Senate leaders should “be extra careful not to be engaging in excess of any kind.”
However, Latino caucus spokesman Roger Salazar said the swearing-in is not too elaborate for such an historic event.
“While it is an inauguration, it also is a fairly down-to-earth one when you really think about it,” he said.
After the ceremony, guests can attend a reception in a blocked-off street outside the concert hall, with food and drinks paid for by the caucus.
The event is being staged even before votes are counted in the election next month, when de Leon – the overwhelming favorite – is running against fellow Democrat Peter Choi.
The swearing-in “is less about seating the incoming Senate president and more about seating the big money lobbyists ever closer to the power center of the California political system,” Choi said.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.