Senate Race Lining Up Quite Nicely for Kamala Harris

Kamala HarrisEXPAND
Kamala Harris
via Office of the Attorney General

UPDATED at 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 12: Kamala Harris will announce she is running for Senate on Tuesday, according to a source close to her.

Since Sen. Barbara Boxer announced her retirement last week, things have started to fall into place quite nicely for Attorney General Kamala Harris. 

Harris still hasn't uttered one word in public about her intentions, but she hasn't had to. This morning, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Facebook that he will not seek Boxer's seat. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is also out. His predecessor, Antonio Villaraigosa, is still hanging around, issuing a statement over the weekend that he is seriously considering a run.

But Newsom's exit from the race makes things harder for Villaraigosa. 

Newsom and Harris are both from San Francisco. Had they run against each other, they would have split their base, potentially creating an opportunity for Villaraigosa to win with a consolidated Southern California vote. But with Newsom officially out, it's much harder to see how that scenario happens.

A Villaraigosa/Harris race would also potentially divide minority communities, with Latinos lining up behind Villaraigosa and African-Americans siding with Harris. If at all possible, Democrats tend to try to avoid black/brown contests.

Plus, everybody still seems to think that Villaraigosa actually wants to be governor. He said so as recently as two weeks ago, in an interview with the Sacramento Bee

“Having been a legislator and a mayor,” Villaraigosa told the paper, “I particularly enjoy being a chief executive.”

He's within his rights to change his mind, but he would likely be giving up on a chance to be governor in 2018 if he runs for Senate now. No doubt he enjoys being considered for the job, but it's hard to take him too seriously unless and until he actually announces.

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Then there's Tom Steyer, the hedge fund guy who could self-fund his campaign. Steyer is not especially well known, and it's hard to figure out exactly what the rationale for his campaign would be. He cares chiefly about climate change, but Harris would presumably be out front on that issue as well. So if the goal is to affect climate policy, his money could probably be better spent elsewhere. And a Steyer candidacy would lack the history-making element of Harris' bid.

This is not to say that the Democratic field will clear completely for Harris. Presumably somebody will try to make it interesting — perhaps a couple Congress members.

But in terms of the top-tier of candidates, it's sure looking like Harris is the candidate to beat.

First posted at 10:55 a.m.


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