With the possible exception of a Hollywood celebrity following in the footsteps of
For years, aspiring Democratic candidates in the Golden State have been able to climb only so high. The three top elected offices have been held by popular Democratic incumbents who just kept getting reelected.
Finally, though, this triumvirate is giving way. Term limits will not allow Brown to run for a fifth term in 2018. Feinstein will be 85 that same year, and her Senate seat will be on the ballot. She has given hints that she will choose not to run again. Boxer has already made that choice, having announced in early January her intent to retire when her term ends in 2016.
As a result, the scramble of would-be candidates has begun. Arguably, this is a good thing that will bring new energy into the party and give younger talent a chance to grab the top rungs of the ladder. But some people in the party seem to prefer an anointing over a wide-open campaign.
A week ago, Willie Brown, the former California Assembly Speaker and ex-mayor of San Francisco, suggested that former Los Angeles Mayor
That so-called Mafia dominates the state Democratic Party. Feinstein was mayor of the City by the Bay before she ascended to the Senate. Boxer was a member of
Perhaps most important, the Bay Area is as blue as Alabama is red and all those Democrats turn out to vote. Los Angeles County may have more people and potentially even more Democratic voters, but voter turnout in L.A. is dismal. That's a problem for Villaraigosa. He may be a Latino in a state with a Latino majority and his base may be in the state's biggest city, but it's a flimsy base if he can't get people to show up at the polls.
Harris, on the other hand, is another Bay Area protege of Willie Brown. Born in Oakland, she was San Francisco district attorney before heading to Sacramento to become attorney general. Harris was quick to announce her candidacy for the Senate after Boxer said she was not running again. She remains the only announced candidate.
Several other prospects for the job, including Newsom, L.A. Mayor
An editorial in the Sacrmento Bee chastised Willie Brown and "Bay Area politicos" for trying to "coronate" Harris. Telling Villaraigosa to step back and wait for another opportunity was a diss on Southern California Democrats and Latino voters, the editorial said.
Looked at as smart political calculation, though, it is entirely understandable that Democratic operatives might think an early winnowing to one candidate is a great idea. Harris is an appealing candidate who has won two statewide elections. In a presidential election year when Democratic voters will be out in full force, she would probably glide to victory over any Republican. Things could only get messed up if there are too many contenders on the primary ballot. This has become a new wild card in the political process now that the state has a top-two system where the pair of candidates receiving the most votes in the primary go on to face each other in the general election, without regard to which party they are from.
Why mess with a sure thing? That's what the San Francisco Democrats seem to be asking.