In battle over Boxer's Senate seat, Jerry Brown and Nancy Pelosi take no sides

In battle over Boxer's Senate seat, Jerry Brown and Nancy Pelosi take no sides
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks Friday with San Francisco billionaire and environmentalist Tom Steyer at the state Democratic convention in Anaheim. Behind Brown is state Democratic chairman John Burton. (Michael Finnegan / Los Angeles Times)

As several thousand Democrats gathered in Anaheim for the state party’s annual convention, a burgeoning fight over Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat promised to dominate the weekend proceedings.

On Friday night, party elders tried to steer clear of the clash between the two Democrats now tussling over Boxer’s job: state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and her newly announced rival, Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County.

“You know I’m not going to bite on that little morsel,” Gov. Jerry Brown said when the topic arose after his brief welcoming remarks to delegates.

Harris and Sanchez will be the gathering’s center of attention on Saturday, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, whose combative approach to Wall Street banking abuses is popular with party activists.

Potential contenders to succeed Brown as governor in four years were working to attract early support, among them Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Treasurer John Chiang.

On the Senate contest that is still taking shape for 2016, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, the House minority leader, was just as  noncommittal as Brown.

"We're waiting to see who else of my colleagues may decide to get in," Pelosi said.

She needn’t look far. Another Democrat, Rep. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles, was already busy working the Anaheim Convention Center corridors as he explores a potential run for the Senate seat that Boxer has occupied for more than 22 years.

Others will get in the race, he told reporters, "including possibly me."

"I think it's important that we have a strong, competitive field, and stay tuned," said Becerra, who expects to decide by August whether to run.

On Friday evening, it was up to Brown to warm up the crowd. The governor, who sailed to reelection in November, touted his efforts against global warming.

"The bad news is you can't stay in the shower as long as you'd like to," Brown joked to a crowd of several hundred, alluding to his demand for a 25% cut in water consumption in response to the drought. "We've got to save some water."

Twitter: @finneganLAT