WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will soon be sworn in as vice president, and a handful of local legislators could be tapped to fill the seat she will leave behind.
“We are working through the cattle call of considerations,” Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week. “I want to make sure it’s inclusive. I want to make sure that we are considerate of people’s points of view.”
Among the local lawmakers believed to be on the governor’s list: Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Rep. Ro Khanna of Fremont, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland and San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
Khanna, a former law and economics professor, was first elected to Congress in 2016. As part of the Democratic party’s progressive wing, he frequently advocates for tuition-free college, Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. The congressman recently served as a national co-chair for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2020.
“Ro is keeping all his options open and is so appreciative of all the support he’s received,” Heather Purcell, the congressman’s deputy chief of staff and communications director, told San José Spotlight.
The Indian American Impact Fund endorsed Khanna earlier this week, praising his commitment to universal healthcare and his expertise in manufacturing and technology. As an Indian American, Khanna would also represent one of the fastest growing communities in California, the organization said.
Schaaf, a former attorney and public affairs director, was elected mayor of Oakland in 2014. Last year, Newsom appointed her to California’s first Council of Regional Homeless Advisors.
Schaaf said this week it was an honor to be considered for the Senate.
“My appreciation of the role of federal government has never been higher since we’ve been in this health crisis,” she said. “Clearly it is the honor of a lifetime to be a United States senator from California. But I am also very cognizant that there are some very, very qualified people on the list.”
Breed was elected mayor of San Francisco two years ago and is the first Black woman to ever serve in the role. She garnered national praise this year for taking early and aggressive action to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Lee, who has served in Congress for more than two decades, is part of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. The congresswoman is known as an advocate for peace, as she was an early and outspoken opponent of the Iraq War. She has also described Harris as a close friend.
Some other possible contenders throughout the state include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Rep. Karen Bass of Los Angeles and Rep. Katie Porter of Orange County.
Bill James, the chair of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, said the state is fortunate to have so many talented candidates. The SCCDP is not currently endorsing anyone, but James believes most Democratic activists hope the governor will chose a progressive who supports universal health care, reproductive rights and an aggressive approach to fighting climate change.
“There also seems to be a lot of interest for the governor to name someone who will represent the diversity of California,” he said.
Local Latino and LGBTQ+ organizations are lobbying the governor for a pick that represents their communities.
James added he personally hopes the governor will select a candidate who wants to remain in the Senate for years to come, as opposed to a seat holder who only intends to finish the remainder of Harris’s term, which expires in 2022.
Angel Martinez, the president of Silicon Valley Young Democrats, said the organization will be discussing whom to support at a general meeting Nov. 16.
“We do hope Newsom will pick an individual that will not only embody the changing racial demographic of California, but also help represent the newer generation of Democrats who will eventually take over the mantle of leadership in the party,” Martinez said.
According to a poll from the USC Schwarzenegger Institute, a majority of voters (76%) are looking for a “fresh and new” voice in politics to fill Harris’s seat.
About 23% said they would prefer a candidate with experience in Sacramento, as opposed to 29% who said they would prefer a candidate with experience in Washington. However, most voters (48%) said they would favor a candidate who was not part of the political scene in either city.
Most voters (52%) said appointing a “historic first” should not be a priority.
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