Gov. Pat Brown, when asked a half-century ago when he would declare his intention to run for re-election, famously replied “when the snow flies in the Sierra.”
His son, Jerry, jokingly used the same phrase five-plus years ago when reporters pressed him about seeking the governorship again after a 28-year absence.
Well, there isn’t much snow flying in the Sierra these days, thanks to California’s prolonged drought. And some politicians aren’t waiting for winter precipitation to signal their interest in succeeding the younger Brown three years hence.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, having decided not to run for the U.S. Senate next year, quickly made it clear that he wanted the governorship, and is already raising money for what could be a very expensive campaign.
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Antonio Villaraigosa, another prominent politician who also eschewed a run for the Senate, showed up in Fresno last week on what he called “a listening and learning tour” – political-speak for building visibility in preparation for a political campaign.
Villaraigosa is the former mayor of Los Angeles who has made little secret of his interest in continuing his political career and being a chief executive – i.e., governor – rather than serving in the Senate.
There’s a possibility that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein would retire in 2018, particularly if Democrats don’t recapture control of the Senate in 2016. That possibility complicates the maneuvering by those who yearn for major office.
Who else might not be waiting for snow to fly in the Sierra?
Alex Padilla, the newly elected secretary of state, has been roaming around the state, showing his face and meeting with local election officials. He’s a distinct possibility for the governorship or the Senate.
If Attorney General Kamala Harris wins the Senate seat next year – virtually certain – she’ll resign, and Jerry Brown will name her successor. Unless he nominates a caretaker, or leaves Harris’ chief deputy in place for two years, his choice as attorney general may be in great position to run for governor in 2018.
How about Republicans?
Most speculation settles on two relatively young, moderate mayors, Fresno’s Ashley Swearengin and San Diego’s Kevin Faulconer.
Swearengin showed an interest in climbing the political ladder by running unsuccessfully for state controller last year.
Faulconer is a newcomer, winning his mayoralty last year. But, perhaps tellingly, he showed up in Sacramento on Monday to talk about “how California can balance environmental protection and economic growth” by emulating his “climate action plan” in San Diego.
He ducked a question about the governorship, saying, “I’m happy about what I’m doing,” but his message was uncannily similar to themes that a former San Diego mayor, Pete Wilson, struck on his own way to a U.S. Senate seat and the governorship.