Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who announced Monday that he would not run for U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer's seat next year, signaled that he would probably support state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris if she does seek the post.
Newsom called Harris on Sunday night to tell her of his decision, but he denied that the two have an agreement in which he would support her for Senate and she would support him for governor — an office in which Newsom has previously expressed interest.
It is "nonsense that there is some kind of understanding. It was never the case. That is absolutely not true," Newsom told The Times in an interview as he left Mayahuel, a Mexican restaurant a block from the Capitol, where he had lunch with California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, another potential contender for Senate.
A campaign consultant for state Treasurer John Chiang confirmed Monday that Chiang is also considering a Senate bid.
Newsom clearly remains interested in a possible run for governor in 2018, saying, "I think it would be a stretch to suggest that someone who was in the race briefly a few years back would not be considering something along those lines. I don't want to mislead folks."
Newsom hinted that he would support Harris in a bid for the Senate.
"I'm a huge fan and supporter of hers, and so maybe you can read between the lines," Newsom said. "But she has to process exactly what I went through: Is it really what you want, and is it the right time, and do you have something to offer, and is there a clarity to that contribution. If you can answer those questions, then go for it."
He noted that he and Harris have known each other for a long time.
"Kamala and I were friends a decade before we both were in politics," Newsom said, adding that they both were active in San Francisco and "spent a great deal of time together before we were in politics.''
"We were enthusiastic supporters of one another as she ran for district attorney and I as mayor, and again when she ran for AG and I for lieutenant governor," Newsom added.
Newsom elaborated on his written statement earlier in the day about his decision not to run for Boxer's job.
"I made the right decision for myself and my family," Newsom said. "This wasn't the right time for a Senate race, given the sense of what it takes in time commitment and energy and focus, and the opportunity to send time with the family. I couldn't look my little kids in the eye and say it was the right thing for them."
Newsom said his decision had nothing to do with Democrats being in the minority in the U.S. Senate, limiting the role he could play.
"Those kinds of things, at least for me, literally never crossed my mind. It wasn't a factor. You can make anything work," Newsom said.
Padilla left the restaurant before he could be interviewed. A source close to him would not rule out a run but noted he was just elected secretary of state.
Newsom said the duo's lunch was not primarily about politics.
"Alex and I were just talking about our respective swearing-ins, which were just a couple of days ago," Newsom said. "We were literally comparing notes about things we can do together and policies. So that's the focus right now and not a campaign, and that's fundamentally what that announcement [Monday] was about."