Aug. 12--Now that Democrat Joe Biden has chosen Rep. Kamala Harris as his running mate, it hasn't dampened the political stakes in Southern California.
Far from it.
The political drama will likely be profound, especially if the ticket ultimately snags the White House. That would mean a U.S. senator would need replacing -- with a poignant tumbling of political dominoes to follow.
Perhaps the most Google'd question in the state on Tuesday -- how would the U.S. Senate seat get filled?
Should the Democrats win, Gov. Gavin Newsom would be in position to pick an interim U.S. senator to fill out Harris' term, which expires at the beginning of 2023.
Newsom also has the legal right to call a special election at some point, but he doesn't have to. Doing so has its pros and cons. On one hand, a special election shows that the governor is doing the democratic thing. On the other hand, special elections are costly, and turnout isn't generally great -- and elections in general are facing pandemic-era safety concerns.
Either way, he's got an interesting balancing act. Should it be a woman? A person of color? An old pro? A transformative newcomer?
No matter who he appoints, Democrat power-brokers will insist they'd need to stand a solid chance of winning a fresh term.
"I don't think it will be an easy situation for the governor," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst and senior fellow at USC's Sol Price School of Public Policy. Bebitch Jeffe pointed to Republican Gov. Pete Wilson's pick of John Seymour, the former mayor of Anaheim, to fill his Senate term when Wilson was elected governor. Seymour would lose the seat to Dianne Feinstein in following special election.
"Newsom has to weigh what the balance is of each of those powerful constituencies in the state," she said, "and what the appointment might mean to each ... ."
So, let's just say it happened. Biden and Harris win in November. Now what?
"There would definitely be some dominos," said Jason Whitehead, associate professor of political science at California State University.
South LA-area Rep. Karen Bass, 66, may well top the list. Once regarded as a quiet force in the Congress she was nonetheless considered by pundits to be among the top five contenders for the role inevitably snared by Harris on Tuesday. She may not have won the veepstakes, but she certainly elevated her political profile in recent weeks.
"There would be a comfort level. She has a great story," said Jessica Levinson, director of Loyola Law School's Public Service Institute. "She founded the Community Coalition. She was one of the Big 5 (in Sacramento) during the Great Recession. I don't know that she's a shoo-in but I think it would be someone Newsom would think about."
She has led high-profile work on criminal justice reform, which surely will consume much of her work in Congress, where she is chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Bass is up for reelection for her South L.A. congressional seat -- representing areas including Crenshaw, Baldwin Hills, Miracle Mile, Pico-Robertson, Century City, Cheviot Hills, West Los Angeles, and Mar Vista -- this November. She's won it handily in recent cycles.
Levinson pointed to Bass's experience in the Assembly and a growing stature on the national scene. Not just that, but she could be a "transformative" selection -- which Newsom is keen on making.
Long-familiar names, such as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra -- names rooted in Southern California, but long floating in the state's political zeitgeist -- are already finding their way back to the top of the conversation.
"The first thing I thought about was the possibility of a Sen. Bass, and then the possibility of a Sen. Padilla, or a Sen. Becerra," said Bebitch Jeffe. "That could be a real conundrum for Gavin Newsom."
It's also hard to ignore Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. Already considered a fast-tracker at age 42, Garcia became the youngest person, the first Latino male and the first gay person of color to be elected to the Long Beach City Council in 2009. He's won admiration for leading the state's seventh-largest city through the rigors of the pandemic with a calm, steady hand, even while enduring the heartbreak of losing his mother and stepfather to COVID-19.
There's also significant buzz in Orange County surounding Katie Porter. She flipped a key seat in 2018's blue wave, logging a stunning Democratic win of the 45th Congressional District, which represents an area including Tustin, Irvine and parts of Anaheim and Laguna Niguel. Since then, her profile has rocketed -- propelled by her tough questioning in congressional oversight hearings.
Don't count Padilla out. "I think Padilla could very well be near the top of the list," said Jack Pitney, who teaches American politics at Claremont McKenna College.
Padilla should also create a stir. An engineer by schooling, Padilla, who grew up in Pacoima and still calls the San Fernando Valley home, is well-poised for the job, pundits said.
After tenures on the L.A. City Council and in the state Assembly and now as the secretary of state, he's close to Newsom. And as a Latino, the 47-year-old represents the fastest-growing segment of California's population.
After widespread speculation, Garcetti, 49, stood down from a potential 2020 bid for the presidency early last year.
Garcetti, who also grew up in the San Fernando Valley, has suffered plenty of slings and arrows for his response to the COVID outbreak and the social justice protests.
But he's already a player in the Biden camp, which can't hurt. He was named one of four Biden campaign co-chairs in April -- a spot that could put him in line for a cabinet position if Biden wins the White House in November.
His mayoral term ends in 2022, which means he has opened options for himself, said Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State Los Angeles.
"The fact he waited on the presidency was, I think, smart," Regalado said.
On Tuesday, Garcetti didn't speak about his own prospects, other than saying "I'm proud that our vice presidential selection process vetted and elevated so many women, each of whom is qualified to lead our country."
Don't forget Rep. Adam Schiff, 60, the longtime congressman whose district stretches from Burbank and the San Fernando Valley to Silver Lake and West Hollywood.
Schiff's national cred rose dramatically among Democrats while prosecuting the impeachment drive against President Donald Trump -- an effort that sparked scorn among Trump supporters. In office since 2001, his current term will end in 2021 in a district considered a Democratic stronghold.
"I think Schiff has a lot of momentum," said Regalado. "Whether he still has that going into a potential race for the Senate is another a matter."
L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, 62, who served as secretary of labor in the Obama administration, is also a seasoned pro. Before that, she served in Congress.
Who else is in the mix? Here some names to watch:
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