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(Cross-posted on DailyKos)
As many of you already know, a recent Field Poll survey was released showing Senator Dianne Feinstein slipping in her approval rating. 43% of California voters surveyed approve of Sen. Feinstein, while 39% disapprove– the highest disapproval rating she’s had since first being elected to office in 1992. While these numbers don’t necessarily spell trouble for California’s senior senator, they do indicate that people are starting to think of a changing of the guards in the Golden State. It most certainly has crossed her mind as well.
There are always politicians and prominent Californians waiting in the wings for political jockeying. With Feinstein reaching 80 years of age soon, more and more elected officials are prepping their resumes and spending extra time coddling donors in preparation for the inevitable.
So it begs the speculative question, who would be ready and able to run a statewide campaign for the United States Senate in the event of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s retirement? Who would make a great Senator? Who should make for a great race? Who would be an abysmal choice? In this “fantasy draft” diary, I’ve narrowed it down to the 13 most probable potential candidates who are at least thinking about a potential run from the Democratic side. All the apparent pros and cons will be listed, and your suggestions/comments are always welcome. And by all means, if you know of any Republicans that would seem likely, include those as well!
1. Lt.Gov. Gavin Newsom- Gavin Newsom is destined for something much bigger than the LG office he currently occupies. There are already rumors that he’s positioning himself to run for House, but being 1 of 435 doesn’t quite sound like what he wants out of life. Don’t get me wrong, Newsom would make a great United States Senator. He’s got the charisma and charm and policy ideas to help shape our country for many years to come. His negatives, however, remain elephants in the room. This IS the guy who slept with his campaign manager’s wife. This IS the guy who ignited a gay marriage firestorm in the height of the Bush era. He’s also the former mayor of San Francisco, the city hated most along the central valley and eastern portion of the state. It seems like a hard road to walk, but in the end he seems most likely to succeed and thrive.
2. Congressman John Garamendi- I will admit I’m a little biased in that I am a huge John Garamendi fan. As our Insurance Commissioner, he did a bang up job protecting consumers. As Lieutenant Governor, he made a statewide presence that seemed unprecedented. Now, as a member of the House of Representatives, Garamendi is fighting for a fairly progressive agenda, and I like that. However, Garamendi has made the appearance of running for every office short of dog catcher– and it’s possible he’s considered that job too at one point. It might also be hard to support an already “older” candidate: the 60’s might still be considered young to most, but in the world of politics that’s up there!
3. Congressman Xavier Becerra- Rep. Becerra is yet another in a long line of California politicians looking for the next step up. After running for LA mayor in 2001, Becerra was once considered to join the Obama Administration as US Trade Representative. He has a leg up in being vocal and policy-driven, and is a member of the House Democratic Leadership (meaning his national fundraising potential is greater than most). However, outside of his LA home base, very few people know who Xavier Becerra is. It will be a huge obstacle to overcome.
4. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez- A member of the Blue Dog Coalition and Representative of conservative Orange County might make it seem like Loretta Sanchez would fare well with conservatives, but she has been long-considered persona non grata with the Tea Party and is a constant target in her re-election bids. This could make her a great candidate, someone used to the salvos and moderate enough to win over right-leaning independents. This could also make her a highly unpopular candidate with traditional Democrats… you know, the people who she’d HAVE to have on her side to win.
5. Secretary of State Debra Bowen- After a rocky primary battle with LA City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, it seems unlikely that our amazing SoS Debra Bowen would think about putting herself through the rigors of a US Senate race. However, comparing her disappointing CA-36 campaign with a statewide race is highly unfair. Debra Bowen has proven herself to be an effective and popular Secretary of State. She’d have no problem being in the top tier of a potential senate match-up, if she goes with a different campaign team and trusts her instincts a little more.
6. Attorney General Kamala Harris- Perhaps one of the nation’s brightest rising stars in the Democratic Primary, Kamala Harris has the potential to run for governor or US Senate and be instantly considered one of the frontrunners. She’s sharp, bold, brave and charismatic. She is willing to fight, is young, and she’d have the unique potential distinction of being our country’s first Indian American Senator (as far as my recollection serves). The problem with Kamala Harris isn’t necessarily a problem though: Harris is actually on a short list of a different sort. The scuttlebutt in Washington DC is that Kamala Harris tops President Obama’s list for a possible replacement to current US Attorney General Eric Holder in a 2nd Obama administration.
7. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones- There aren’t any other people on this list more genuinely friendly than Dave Jones (with the exception of Debra Bowen). As a Sacramento City Councilman to state assemblyman and now as Insurance Commissioner, Jones has served us all exceptionally well. He’s brilliant and his heart is in the right place. The problem with Dave Jones is that he’s not built for the United States Senate. In my mind, Dave Jones belongs in the Governor’s Mansion. Trust me, I’d be happy to see this man representing our great state, but there’s a distinct difference in leadership style that Dave has that makes him my dream choice for governor one day.
8. State Senator Kevin De Leon- Sen. De Leon is a former teacher who knows what’s going on in America’s classrooms. He’s seen it all, and that experience is much-needed in the Senate. Much like Rep. Becerra and others down the list, name recognition is going to be a problem. However, Kevin De Leon is a shrewd politician, and his roots travel deep. He’d be an instant favorite with the education crowd, and environmental groups will be pleased with his record. He’d be a dark horse, but one worth wagering on.
9. State Senator Mark Leno- Sen. Leno is one of the few openly LGBT members of the California state legislature. Being a gay Jew might not work in Alabama, but in California it’s a non-issue (maybe even a plus). Leno has long been a champion for the environment, healthcare and equality, making him an instant hit with the grassroots activist folks. It would be hard to dismiss his hemp legalization efforts, but in a state that’s pretty evenly divided on the issue Leno wouldn’t have a hard time moving forward.
10. Assemblyman Isadore Hall- Hardly a household name, Isadore Hall could make the case that he has what it takes to serve us in the Senate. From serving as a community college trustee to serving on the Compton City Council before joining the Assembly, Hall has the potential to bring a distinct voice to Washington, one that speaks up for the urban residents of America that often get overlooked. Of course, many can say his relatively young age (39) and inexperience (joining the Assembly in 2008) might handicap Hall. I wouldn’t be surprised if this rising star ends up proving them all wrong.
11. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma- If ever there was a perfect example of a leader standing up for women & children. From authoring bills on toxic paints in toys to domestic violence, Ma has done a lot for California families. It’s really hard to tell, however, if Ma is genuine or not. Her ambition is slightly unsettling, but it may be just the kind of drive we need in the Senate.
12. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (Los Angeles)- Conventional wisdom would say that the former state assembly speaker and mayor of one of the world’s largest cities would be an instant leader in the race to succeed Dianne Feinstein, but unfortunately the candidate would be Antonio Villaraigosa. Mired in scandals over the years, Villaraisgosa represents the backroom politician scheming America loves to hate. Will he raise tons of cash? Yes. Will he campaign hard and for issues we probably will care about? Yes. But will he be a good senator?
13. Mayor Kevin Johnson (Sacramento)- Quite easily the least likely to succeed candidate on this list, Kevin Johnson was mostly just included so I could mention how terrible Kevin Johnson is. Far from being considered intelligent, thoughtful, or concerned about his constituency. The only thing going for Johnson is his ability to snake his way into the limelight to pontificate on whatever issue he thinks he can speak on. As a Sacramentan, I am thoroughly embarrassed of my mayor. BUT, having said that, Johnson has proven that he can raise a lot of money from big named supporters like Gavin Newsom, Charles Barkley, Kamala Harris and even has the attention of the White House. He’d be a contender, but you can bet I’d do all I can to let everyone know just what kind of Senator they’d be getting.
So what are your thoughts? Comments are, as always, welcome!
Wed Jun 22, 2011 at 8:21 AM PT: A POLL has been added… why didn’t I think of this earlier?!?!