After the Democratic convention in the summer, Californians began to seriously consider the prospect of having a new U.S. senator less than four years after sending Kamala Harris to Washington. And in a state where recent U.S. senators, such as Barbara Boxer, who retired, and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), have spent decades in office, any person who does end up in the Senate will be well-positioned to stay in office for the long-haul.
Per California law, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) can appoint a successor to fill a vacancy left by an outgoing senator, or he can decide to hold a special election to fill the seat.
According to Politico, however, sources close to the governor expect him to go the appointment route, and over a dozen potential candidates have privately expressed interest in the Senate seat, and possibly even more candidates than that.
“Gavin Newsom likes to make history,” Dan Schnur, a former adviser to Governor Pete Wilson, told Politico last month. “And the likelihood of him appointing a white male is about as likely as me starting a World Series for the Dodgers.”
Here are six Democrats who could be the next California senator.
Alex Padilla, California Secretary Of State
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, 47, who has served in the position since 2015, has attracted considerable attention as a potential U.S. Senate appointment.
As secretary of state, Padilla refused to cooperate with the Trump administration’s Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity. He also accused Republican Kris Kobach, the former Kansas Secretary of State and committee vice-chair, of seeking to “enact policies that will result in the disenfranchisement of American citizens.”
During a speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Padilla claimed Trump was trying to sabotage the Postal Service ahead of the presidential election. “Democrats will fight to make sure your ballot is counted,” said Padilla.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Padilla may also have an advantage in seeking the position as he is a close ally of Newsom — having managed his failed 2010 gubernatorial campaign — and previously worked for Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Politico reports that Padilla is considered a frontrunner by many state political insiders.
Xavier Becerra, California Attorney General
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, 62, a former 12-term congressman turned chief state lawyer, has developed a favorable rapport with the California resistance for hitting the Trump administration with dozens of lawsuits, with topics ranging from environmental regulations to immigration to the Affordable Care Act.
The frequency of these lawsuits against the federal government appear to have increased over time, as Becerra recently filed his 100th lawsuit against the Trump administration, having filed his 50th lawsuit around a year prior, according to The Washington Post.
On the California political stage, Becerra has also pushed the state toward the Left in such a way that even voters and the courts have challenged.
Back in May, Becerra filed a lawsuit against ride-sharing apps to force them to categorize drivers as employees subject to burdensome labor restrictions, in accordance with a far-left labor law that Californians have since voted down. Earlier this summer, Becerra petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to review a Second Amendment case en banc (i.e., with the full bench of judges) after a panel of judges found California’s attempt to restrict magazines over ten rounds to be unconstitutional.
Karen Bass, Congresswoman
Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-CA), 67, may also find herself as the next senator from the nation’s most populous state.
First elected to Congress in 2011, Bass has mostly stayed out of the spotlight for years and only recently started to draw national attention when she was floated as a 2020 running mate to then-presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
However, once under the limelight, Bass was quickly criticized for past comments she made, such as calling the death of communist dictator Fidel Castro a “great loss to the people of Cuba,” and eulogizing Oneil Marion Cannon, a former top member in the Communist Party USA, as a “friend and mentor,” according to Politico.
Amidst the VP speculation, Bass told NBC News that she’s not a communist or a socialist, and identifies as Christian. A spokesperson told Politico: “Karen Bass has always been a Democrat and only a Democrat. The Congresswoman is friends with Kevin McCarthy and is not a Republican. She knew Oneil Cannon but never shared the political ideology he may have had at one time in his life.”
Bass has also signaled, however, that she could be interested in a Biden administration cabinet position, telling Politico she thinks it’s “important to look at possibilities.”
Libby Schaaf, Oakland Mayor
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, 54, could also find herself in the position to be the next California senator, according to Politico. Schaaf has virtually no national profile, although she did receive some national attention back in 2018 after she publicly warned of impending ICE operations in the city and called herself a part of the “resistance.”
Through her mayorship, Schaaf has also found herself facing political challenges similar to those of mayors in other left-wing cities, especially when it comes to policing.
Notably, Schaaf made the decisive vote against cutting the Oakland Police Department budget even more back in June, although she explained that she was still on board with “reimagining public safety” in Oakland, reports ABC-7 News.
“More than 100,000 people every year call 911 wanting the police to respond, we know that Oakland police have saved lives, have prevented harm, have brought justice and resolution to victims of crime, and we have to honor that sense of safety also,” she said.
Amidst the summer of unrest, Schaaf also launched a hate-crime probe after an alleged noose was found in a public park. Victor Sengbe, who is black, promptly came forward to say that the rope was actually part of a swing he put up a while ago.
Schaaf claimed that it didn’t matter, saying “reports that these were part of exercise equipment do not remove nor excuse their torturous and terrorizing effects.”
London Breed, San Francisco Mayor
As the mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, 46, holds the distinction of ordering the first lockdowns in the country. In the time since, San Francisco has struggled to offer enough reason for businesses to stay, particularly small businesses, and recent data from the San Francisco Chronicle shows tax revenue down 43% from 2019.
The drop in business and the rise in tele-work has caused San Francisco rent, which is notoriously expensive, to plunge by roughly 31% for studio apartments and 21% for one-bedroom apartments, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Despite allowing indoor dining to resume at 25% capacity in late September, Breed has since announced that such dining will no longer be allowed due to an increase in coronavirus cases in the city, prompting outrage from restaurants, reports ABC-7.
Breed also holds the distinction of having defended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) after she attracted backlash for visiting a closed San Francisco salon with her mask down.
“We have a terrorist, we have a dictator who is running this country and Nancy Pelosi is at the forefront fighting against this person every day, you know, and I’m not trying to excuse what happened,” said Breed, reports ABC-7. “I’m just saying that to allow an issue like this to turn our city upside down when we got folks who are homeless, we’ve got people who can’t open their business, including these salons. I understand.”
Kevin de León, Former State Senate Leader
A member of the Los Angeles City Council, Kevin de León, 53, previously served as the president pro tempore of the California state Senate. Back in 2018, he ran a left-wing challenge against incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein.
As a leader in the Democratic-controlled state Senate, de León oversaw the passage of a $15 minimum wage law and a “sanctuary state” law, which was slightly watered-down in order to get then-Governor Jerry Brown on board with it, reports Politico.
The immigration law prohibited local officials from asking about a person’s immigration status and from collaborating with the federal government, reports the LA Times. The final law carved out exceptions for certain crimes, such as robbery and murder.
Ahead of the 2018 general election, de León managed to gain the endorsement of the California Democratic Party after Feinstein pleaded with them not to endorse any candidate. The race contained no Republican challenger, and de León lost by ten points.
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