Attorney General Kamala Harris is expected to enter the 2016 race for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, following an apparent decision by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to instead seek the governor’s office in 2018.
Sen. Barbara Boxer’s announcement Thursday that she would not seek a fifth term provoked many of the state’s top Democrats to consider the rare opportunity.
“It’s always better to be candid than coy,” Newsom, a 47-year-old Democrat, said Monday in a message posted on Facebook. “While I am humbled by the widespread encouragement of so many and hold in the highest esteem those who serve us in federal office, I know that my head and my heart, my young family’s future, and our unfinished work all remain firmly in the State of California – not Washington D.C. Therefore I will not seek election to the U.S. Senate in 2016.”
Harris aides said they expected her to be the first candidate to declare an intention to run.
“This isn’t a trial balloon,” said an aide to Harris who asked for anonymity. “This is a takeoff.”
A Newsom adviser said the lieutenant governor informed Harris in a Sunday night voice mail that he would not be running for Senate and that she was the first person Newsom called after coming to the decision. While there was speculation that the two would not challenge each other, the adviser said there was never a deal between them about who would run.
Harris, 50, a former district attorney of San Francisco, has long been considered one of the state’s rising political stars. She campaigned for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, when she appeared as a speaker at the Democratic National Convention.
Harris’ run could be a galvanizing factor for many in an election year expected to feature former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. And in a large and diverse state, where it takes considerable resources for candidates to communicate their messages to voters, the district attorney’s office also will help keep her visible.
Last week, after coasting to re-election in November, Harris announced the formation of a bureau to spotlight crimes against children, including in the foster care and adoption systems. But Harris, who is African American and South Asian, also used her inaugural speech in Sacramento to wade into the sensitive topic of relations between law enforcement and African Americans.
The rest of the field remains in flux.
Billionaire climate change activist Tom Steyer and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have said they are looking closely at putting together campaigns. Others weighing possible bids include Democratic Reps. Jackie Speier, Loretta Sanchez, John Garamendi and Eric Swalwell, and Treasurer John Chiang.
Assemblyman Rocky Chavez of Oceanside and former state GOP chairmen Tom Del Beccaro and Duf Sundheim are among the Republicans considering candidacies.
Newsom has yet to support a candidate. In the statement, he said he would spend the coming months working to help elect the state’s first new senator since 1992 – “one worthy of succeeding Barbara Boxer and serving this remarkable state of dreamers and doers in the United States Senate.”
Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago.