CA Democrats jockey to replace Boxer

CA Democrats jockey to replace Boxer

John Chiang, wikimediaU.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s retirement announcement couldn’t come soon enough for the next generation of California Democrats, who’ve eagerly waited for the chance to move up.

The 2016 election, according to the Associated Press, will be “a free-for-all among a new generation of California Democrats.” With the help of California’s Top 2 Primary, California Republicans even have an outside chance of capitalizing on that anticipated Democratic free-for-all. If multiple Democrats split the primary vote, two Republicans could make the runoff and win the seat that’s been held by Boxer for two decades.

That very long-shot nearly happened in the 2014 race for state controller. Democrats Betty Yee and Speaker of the Assembly John Perez nearly lost out to Republicans David Evans and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin. After finishing second to Swearengin in June, Yee ultimately won in November.

Democrats confident in diverse bench

As reported yesterday, “Boxer’s retirement is the beginning of the changing of the guard in state politics.” California Democrats’ oldest guard, party Chairman John Burton, 82, confidently predicted Democrats would hold the seat in 2016.

“As difficult as it is to imagine California without Barbara Boxer looking out for us in the U.S. Senate, we’re confident California Democrats will have plenty to choose from when it comes to electing their next U.S. Senator,” Burton, an old San Francisco liberal, said in a statement.

So, who are those Democrats ready to take over as Boxer’s successor? Possibly the strongest candidate is one of her former staff members, a man who has gone on to have a successful political career in his own right.

Treasurer John Chiang leads field of potential challengers

On paper, State Treasurer John Chiang, who worked for Boxer early in his career, might be the strongest candidate to succeed her in 2016.

“Senator Boxer has been a stalwart champion for environmental, social, and economic justice,” Chiang said in a statement. “It was an honor to work with Senator Boxer, and I wish her the very best.”

Chiang, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, doesn’t get top billing from political insiders, in part, because he’s been willing to buck the Capitol establishment. When state lawmakers failed to pass a balanced budget on time in 2011, Chiang withheld their paychecks, a move that was heralded by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. As state controller, he also opened up the state’s books by publishing payroll data for hundreds of thousands of public employees.

Those decisive actions have helped Chiang appeal to moderate Republicans and independent voters. It also explains why he received the most votes in the November election after Gov. Jerry Brown. In 2014, Chiang raised more money than either Attorney General Kamala Harris or Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, both of whom receive more hype as Boxer’s potential successor.

Do Harris, Newsom have a pact?

Kamala-Harris-handsThe first names mentioned by the inside-the-Beltway crowd, Harris and Newsom, are sending signals that they won’t run against each other for Boxer’s seat. The two constitutional officers, who share political consultants, SCN Strategies, put their unity on full display earlier this week. Newsom was sworn in for his second term as lieutenant governor by “his good friend” Harris.

Of the two, Harris is expected to run for U.S. Senate, giving Newsom a clear path to governor in 2018. That’s subtly reinforced by their campaign websites. There’s no mention of the AG’s office on Harris’ campaign homepage,, while Newsom’s still mentions he’s lieutenant governor.

But Harris could run into trouble in her campaign for U.S. Senate. Although she cruised to reelection in 2014, she had a competitive race in 2010, when she narrowly defeated Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley. After leading in the polls, Cooley plummeted when he publicly admitted that he’d “double dip,” collecting a pension and his paycheck.

Steyer, Villaraigosa also formidable challengers

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, another strong contender, is sending mixed signals about his interest in the race. Bloomberg’s Jonathan Allen reported the 61-year-old Democrat is “seriously considering” a run.

Thomas SteyerBut according to the Wall Street Journal, “A person close to Mr. Villaraigosa said a Senate campaign was unlikely for the former mayor. ‘The only seat he cares about is running for governor. He has been a legislator and he’s been an executive, and if he wanted to continue his political career, it would only be as an executive,’ the person said.”

Another Democrat playing it coy is billionaire Tom Steyer. In the 2014 midterm elections, Steyer’s Next Gen Climate PAC spent $74 million on liberal candidates. Politico reported last month that liberal activists at a League of Conservation Voters event in New York City were encouraging Steyer to consider a U.S. Senate campaign. “Tom has consistently said that he will consider the best ways to have the biggest impact,” Chris Lehane, Steyer’s political consultant, wrote in an email to Politico.

GOP candidates: Sundheim, Del Beccaro

Among the first Republicans to react to Boxer’s retirement news was San Diego County Republican Party Chairman Tony Krvaric.

“Being a far left Senator, Barbara Boxer never met a tax increase, regulation, or intrusion on personal freedom she didn’t support,” said Krvaric, one of the state’s most successful GOP party leaders. “Californians deserve a Senator who understands the needs of the average citizen — not out-of-touch San Francisco elites.”

That, at least momentarily, signaled the possibility that California’s top Republican official, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, might be considering the race. However, Faulconer quickly said he wasn’t interested. Other Republicans who’ve thrown cold water on a bid: former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Rep. Darrell Issa.

That leaves two former chairmen of the California Republican Party as the only Republicans who are exploring bids: Tom Del Beccaro, a Bay Area author and attorney who served as CA GOP chairman from 2011 to 2013; and Duf Sundheim, another Bay Area lawyer who served as party chairman from 2003–2007.

“If I did run, I would run a very different campaign,” Sundheim said in a statement announcing his intent to explore the race. “What I am exploring is whether such a campaign is viable.  My plan is to go around the state, listen to the dreams people have for themselves, their family and their community and then decide.”

Other potential candidates include Democrat Steve Westly, a former California state controller; and Republicans Neel Kashkari, who lost to Brown for governor last year; Meg Whitman, the Hewlett-Packard CEO who lost to Brown in 2010; and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

According to the Los Angeles Times, unnamed sources close to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, a Democrat, said she isn’t interested in running.


Write a comment
  1. maximilian
    maximilian 9 January, 2015, 13:30

    Sure, lots of “potential” candidates. But, when you look at credentials and seek someone who will actually do what they say what they will do, only one name surfaces…John Chiang. Sundheim, mostly unknown, deserves a look based on his previous activist work. Everyone else is fluff, gloss or hot air. Newsom and Kamala are eliminated early…name one thing either has accomplished in their current position. OK, Obama thinks Kamala is cute and Newsom blathers about how much he wants to eliminate the position of Lt. Governor as a ‘do-nothing’ job. He certainly has filled out the job description. “Newsom was sworn in for his second term as lieutenant governor by ‘his good friend’ Harris.” Isn’t that darling.? Villaraigosa wouldn’t win his own city…again what has he done for LA that he could use to catapult him to state level? If I had Steyer’s money, I’d be considered a candidate. He’s a one-trick (global warming…whoops, climate-change) pony. Don’t recall him ever bloviating on any other issue. Westly…quiet and out-of-the-loop. Kashkari…he may run, but people will remember his fumbling against Brown.

    Stick with Chiang…for now.

    Reply this comment
  2. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 9 January, 2015, 21:08

    Who cares?

    Reply this comment
  3. Bill - San Jose
    Bill - San Jose 10 January, 2015, 14:17

    Chiang said social justice.

    I will have to look that up.

    Reply this comment
  4. Bill Gore
    Bill Gore 10 January, 2015, 19:51

    California voters are habituated to voting for women senators: Toni Atkins is THE ONE… She’s gay. She’s a she (XX chromasomes). Super simpatico and super pro-big unions. Just wait. It’s inevitable.

    Reply this comment
  5. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 12 January, 2015, 11:17

    “As difficult as it is to imagine California without Barbara Boxer looking out for us in the U.S. Senate”

    This quote from the arrogant, creepy and apparently senile octogenarian John Burton has to be the stupidest line from a California Dumbocrat so far this year.

    There must be at least 1,000,000 people in the state who could do the job Boxer has been doing. Exactly what has she accomplished as Senator that a well trained Bonobo couldn’t manage?

    Speaking of primate intelligence, or the lack thereof, I think the perfect replacement would be Villaraigosa. All of the right stuff is there – room temperature IQ, a penchant for asinine blather, knee jerk left wing agenda and a ludicrous sense of self importance.

    But wait, there’s more. Elect Villaraigosa and we also get a constant stream of salacious gossip about who Mr. Happy Pants is sneaking around with. I’ve even got a few nicknames for him – “The Zorro of the Zipper” or how about “The Lord of the Fly”.

    Reply this comment
    • maximilian
      maximilian 12 January, 2015, 11:58

      Dyspeptic, thank you for your observations…on target. Add to the list of potential candidates the name, Jerry Brown. In Sunday’s Chronicle, Willie Brown tossed the Governor’s name into the pot based on the Governor’s popularity and ability to raise more money than anybody else. As Willie notes, the U.S. Senate “fits his broad intellect.” That’s touching.
      Apparently, the only way an adult (read: Republican) will ever be elected to the Senate and/or Governor will be as the result of a Republican placing 2nd in the top-two vote-getter primary when two Democrats reduce the others vote count. I have my fingers crossed.

      Reply this comment
      • Dyspeptic
        Dyspeptic 12 January, 2015, 14:17

        Interesting comments from Willie Brown but then you have to consider the source. I doubt Governor Clown is interested in the job since he already has a better one. Besides, Antonio Villaraigosa has a “broad intellect” too. He’s always thinking about broads, and for a U.S. Senator, that’s really important. Just ask Ted Kennedy.

        Reply this comment

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