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Gavin's Out, Kamala's (Probably) In for Post-Boxer Race

The field to replace the California Senator just became much more clear. 

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris 


And then there was one: Barring a hugely unexpected development, state Attorney General Kamala Harris is now the front-runner to replace retiring Senator Barbara Boxer in 2016. This morning on Facebook, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he would not be running, leaving the field, at least for now, open to Harris.

It has been widely presumed that Newsom and Harris—who share a power base in San Francisco, have similar policy positions, and even retain the same political consulting firm—would running against each other, instead deciding who between them would run for Governor and which for Senate. Now, it appears that question has begun to be answered.

Newsom’s statement seemed calculated to leave the door open for a second run for Governor and to lay the groundwork for an eventually endorsement of Harris. He said, “It's always better to be candid than coy. While I am humbled by the widespread encouragement of so many and hold in the highest esteem those who serve us in federal office, I know that my head and my heart, my young family's future, and our unfinished work all remain firmly in the State of California—not Washington D.C. Therefore I will not seek election to the U.S. Senate in 2016. In the months to come, I look forward to doing whatever I can to help elect California's next great Democratic Senator—one worthy of succeeding Barbara Boxer and serving this remarkable state of dreamers and doers in the United States Senate.”

So let’s look at which Democrats besides Harris and Newsom remain on the short list to jump into the race:

Antonio Villaraigosa
Status: Probably In
The former mayor of Los Angeles hinted strongly that he would be seeking the position, releasing a statement that said, ““The urgency of the needs of the people of this great state have convinced me to seriously consider looking at running for California’s open Senate seat.” As the LA Times has argued, the Latino would be one of strongest contenders from Southern California, despite clashes with teachers’ unions and the fallout of a messy divorce.

Tom Steyer
Status: Edging In
The venture capitalist and environmental activist has dipped a toe into the water, according to The Hill, working the phones to gauge interest since last week. Steyer is also calculating how and if he could keep his super PAC, NextGen Climate, active during a run. His personal wealth would give him a significant advantage, but his name recognition would be much lower than that of Harris or Villaraigosa. Rich outsiders have a poor track record of winning office in the state—remember Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman?—so a Steyer bid comes at some risk.

John Chiang
Status: Possible
John Hrabe at is convinced that the state Treasurer is the “strongest candidate to succeed [Boxer],” arguing that Chiang has higher approval rating and margins of victory than any other statewide elected official. It’s hard to see how he would gain traction against the far more charismatic Harris or Villaraigosa, however.

Loretta Sanchez
Status: Possible
The OC congressmember has been keeping a low public profile since the Boxer announcement, with a spokesperson telling OC Weekly that she “hasn’t decided” whether she will run.

John Garamendi
Status: Possible
The Walnut Grove congressmemeber said he would “consider” taking a run but hasn’t yet made up his mind.


Eric Salwell
Status: Possible
The second-term House member from Fremont is no shrinking violet: He entered Congress by taking down long-time incument Pete Stark. So perhaps it's not a total surprise that he's told the San Jose Mercury that the race is "worth considering." Sounds like he's playing up his pro-tech credentials both as a way to differentiate himself from the field and to tap into the donor base.

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