If all goes well this November, Governor Gavin Newsom will get to appoint a new Democratic Senator to take Vice President-elect Kamala Harris's seat. And the pressure will be on to select a woman — and a woman of color.
We obviously should all be knocking on wood and not getting ahead of ourselves the way we did in 2016. Between now and November Trump could potentially have destroyed the postal system and declared war on France or someone in order to make a case why there shouldn't be an election. But we can at least speculate who is on Newsom's shortlist, which has no doubt been growing in the past two days.
As the Associated Press reports, Representatives Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), both Black women with plenty of experience in Washington, are likely topping the list. And particularly in this year of racial reckoning, it will not look good for Newsom to give a Senate seat to a white person — especially when Harris is one of only two Black women ever to have served in the Senate, and currently the only one.
That puts Rep. Katie Porter's chances pretty far below Bass's and Lee's, even though the Orange County Democrat pulled out a big win in a purple district in 2018 and has proven to be a savvy fundraiser. But it might elevate the chances of SF Mayor London Breed, despite her lack of experience on the national stage.
But then there's the issue that California has the largest Latinx population in the nation, with 14 million Latinx people in the state, and there has never been a Latinx Senator representing the state. Pressure will no doubt mount for Newsom to right this wrong, with Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State (and longtime Newsom pal) Alex Padilla likely topping that list — even though taking a Senate seat that belonged to one of only 26 women in the chamber and giving it to a man could raise eyebrows.
And then there's the fact that Newsom has been a hero to the LGBTQ community since first allowing same-sex marriages to take place as Mayor of San Francisco at City Hall in 2004, and the potential for appointing the first openly gay person to the Senate besides Lindsey Graham (I joke).
The AP quotes political science professor Jack Pitney of Claremont McKenna College saying, "It’s an old joke in politics: Every time you make an appointment, you make 20 enemies and one ingrate."
So then you have the option of choosing a "caretaker" figure who will bow out in the 2022 election, which could be an elder statesman in the party like — dare we say it?! — Willie Brown.
Newsom was already joking that he's being heavily lobbied by would-be candidates — when asked about this by a reporter he replied, "Well you may be the only one that hasn’t, unless you just did. And that is only a slight exaggeration."
As the New York Times reports, Newsom hailed Kamala's rise to VP pick yesterday saying it was "a proud moment — historic." And he noted how he and Kamala both came up together in the wilds of Bay Area politics, "which is not for the timid," he said. And he added that picking her successor "is not what I’m focused on right now," given everything.
One big consideration, the Times writes, will be choosing a person who's highly electable and already capable at filling a campaign war chest, because they will have to run for the seat in just two years.
Let the games begin!
Photo by Tom Williams/Getty Images