What are your assessment of the current field of potential California Governors?
I think Californians – and I’m one of them – should feel good. There is a deep field of prospective candidates for Governor in 2018, and there is a solid selection of Democrats who might run for Governor or other offices throughout the state. California has some really, really good candidates ready to take the next step in 2018 and beyond. And that “beyond” part is important because several of the leading California Democrats have an opportunity to make a difference not just in next year’s statewide races, but nationally in 2020. Most of the top contenders in California are young and relatively fresh faces, much like Kamala Harris was last year during her Senate run. California Democrats (I’m one of those, too) should be appreciative for what Nancy Pelosi, Senator Feinstein, and, especially, Governor Brown have done for us, the CDP, and our state, but on Election Day in 2018 Pelosi will be 78 years old, Feinstein will be 85 years old, and Brown will be 80 years old, so it’s comforting to know that the younger generation of progressive California leaders are ready to take over.
Rght now, I’m still supporting Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom for Governor, but I’m also still open to other candidates. I’m definitely paying attention to Tom Steyer and keeping an eye on Eric Garcetti, but I think Garcetti is going to just wait and try to make the jump from Mayor of Los Angeles to President of the United States in 2020. And that’s the smart move for him. Garcetti has a chance of making a splash in 2020 if he runs for President, but he would cut himself off at the knees if he ran for Governor in 2018 and lost, and there’s no guarantee that he would win. If I was advising Garcetti, I’d keep him away from next year’s Gubernatorial race and just have him work at raising his profile and being the anti-Trump accomplishing tangible things in the community while building a network of grassroots supporters, loyal donors, and an innovative national campaign.
As I was saying in regards to the 2018 gubernatorial race, I’m currently leaning towards Newsom, but I’m intrigued by Steyer. I think John Chiang, the California State Treasurer, has been very good at the jobs that Californians have elected him to statewide (Controller and Treasurer), but he’s not a terribly exciting guy and he’s going to be facing several rivals for the Governorship who certainly aren’t lacking in the charisma department. I think Chiang would be better off running for Lieutenant Governor, and I think it would be a good fit for him.
I’m not a fan of Antonio Villaraigosa. I’ve never been a fan of Antonio Villaraigosa. I used to get a downright uneasy feeling about John Edwards – even when Edwards was a favorite of many Democrats who wished that the Democratic ticket was reversed in 2004 because they thought Edwards was a better potential Presidential nominee than John Kerry. He wasn’t, and my instincts about him were proven correct when he did a one-and-done term in the Senate, ran for President again in 2008, cheated on his wife as she was dying from cancer, and then tried to get an aide to take responsibility for the baby that Edwards had fathered with his mistress (during the campaign where Edwards’s wife was dying from cancer). Anyway…I get the same feelings about Antonio Villaraigosa that I used to get about John Edwards so I definitely hope he doesn’t get anywhere near the Governor’s office.
I also don’t like Kevin de Léon, who is currently the leader in the California State Senate. He hasn’t announced that he’s running but he’s exploring the possibility. Fortunately, Gavin Newsom dislikes de Léon (and I mean that he genuinely does not like the guy) even more than I do, so if he does get in the race I’m pretty sure Newsom will actively work to take de Léon out.
It’s still somewhat early in the campaign cycle, so there’s a chance that some other candidates will jump in the race, and that’s why I’m keeping my options open. But, like I said, California is in good shape when it comes to the next few elections because there is truly a host of quality candidates ready to make the leap. Besides Garcetti, I’m really keeping an eye on Xavier Becerra, who isn’t running for Governor but is well-positioned to break through nationally. Becerra is a former member of the House of Representatives (in fact, he represented the district that I now live in after moving to Los Angeles), but he resigned from Congress to accept Governor Brown’s nomination to be Attorney General of California. Perhaps more than anybody in California, Becerra has the ability to be President Trump’s biggest headache, and he has an opportunity to raise his profile significantly by leading the fight against Trump’s policies when they adversely affect Californians. Like Garcetti, Becerra has the rare chance to make a huge jump from local or statewide office into something on the national level – possibly the Vice Presidency on the Democratic ticket in 2020. Becerra was strongly rumored to have been one of candidates vetted for the Vice Presidency by Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. He’s made it clear that he’s seeking an elected term as Attorney General in 2018, but the best-case scenario for him – and for California – would be if Dianne Feinstein decided not to run for a sixth term in U.S. Senate. Feinstein will be 85 years old when she runs for re-election next year, and I feel like Becerra would be perfect if made the jump from Attorney General of California to the U.S. Senate exactly like Kamala Harris did in 2016. It’s time for energetic leadership everywhere, and Becerra could provide that much better than an 85-year-old who has barely been challenged for her seat in a quarter century.
I went a little further than just the 2018 race for Governor of California, but it’s an interesting time in California politics. And for those who might be wondering why I didn’t mention any Republican candidates, it is because California has a jungle primary system (which I’m a big fan of and is one of the reasons why California has developed such strong and fresh Democratic candidates over the past decade). Instead of the leading Democrat facing the leading Republican in the general election, the top two vote-getters face off in the general election regardless of their party affiliation. That’s why two Democrats – Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez – ended up running against each other in the general election for the U.S. Senate in 2016. The jungle primary and the state’s diverse population has resulted in what is very nearly a super majority for the Democrats in California, so the system works really well in the the state since it ensures that the two candidates who truly had the most support in the primaries advance to a much more competitive general election as opposed to a lopsided matchup between a Democratic nominee who would likely crush a Republican nominee for 20% of the vote. There are Republicans running for Governor in 2018, but it’s unlikely that any of them will come close to finishing in the top two of the jungle primary and advancing to the general election. A Republican hasn’t won a statewide election in California since Governor Schwarzenegger was re-elected in 2006.