Scratch one name from the “next California Attorney General” sweepstakes.
Now that Attorney General Kamala Harris has won a spot in the U.S. Senate, Gov. Jerry Brown will need to decide who serves out the remainder of Harris’s term and functions as California’s top cop until 2018. Speculation about Brown’s potential pick has riveted politics watchers. Brown’s wife, Anne Gust Brown, Executive Secretary Nancy McFadden and a variety of current and former lawmakers and district attorneys have populated the lists conjured by amateur prognosticators at the Capitol.
If Brown doesn’t tab someone else, the job goes by default to the second-in-command at the California Department of Justice. That would have meant Chief Deputy Attorney General Nathan Barankin, a longtime fixture in state government in Sacramento.
But Harris announced on Wednesday she’s taking Barankin to Washington, where he’ll serve as her chief of staff. The top Harris lieutenant, who also served under former AGs Brown and Bill Lockyer, has echoed his boss’s sharp public criticism of President-Elect Donald Trump, pointing out potential conflicts between Trump’s businesses and his public role and saying Trump’s failure to denounce white nationalist supporters “constitutes endorsement.”
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“Nathan has been my trusted advisor and right hand for many years in the Attorney General’s office. He is an exceptional lawyer, legislative expert, and career public servant,” Harris said in a statement.
Barankin’s departure leaves a hole at the top of the California Department of Justice hierarchy. Harris will appoint someone to fill his spot, and whoever Harris picks will take over as acting attorney general once Harris takes her Senate oath. The acting attorney general would serve until Brown appoints and gets confirmation of his pick – unless the governor decides to retain Harris’s pick through 2018.