Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stirred up the political class when he told an ABC interviewer that he would be interested to be governor of California. Villaraigosa didn’t send out a timeline to reach his goal, however, how many would be surprised if any Democrat eyeing the job might speed up their schedule and run for governor even if the incumbent Democratic governor seeks a second term?
Clearly, challenging the incumbent comes with a big down side if the challenger fails. The Democratic establishment will ostracize such a failed candidate.
Yet, in the world of the Top Two primary some political consultants might be whispering in a want-to-be-governor’s ear that here lies opportunity.
To say that the Republican bench is weak and that there are no leading Republican candidates for governor is an understatement. If the Top Two primary field consists of a number Republicans vying for the job and, say, one well-known Democrat along with Governor Brown is it not possible that the well-known Democrat could end up challenging the governor in a General Election?
The governor’s challenger in the General Election would have to appeal to Republicans to have a shot at defeating a sitting governor. Much would depend on the assessment by the voters of the governor’s first term.
Mayor Villaraigosa may not be able to run as a pro-business candidate given his vocal support of a split property tax roll on business. But others may see an opportunity as 2014 nears. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who has expressed disdain for his current office, may feel he can appeal to Republican and business minded voters, for instance, while still listing his Democratic/progressive bona fides.
Are there others who think the new voting rules open up opportunities? Clearly, if the Democratic Party becomes more and more dominate in this state, under the Top Two primary, scenarios of Democrats vs. Democrat in the finals for a constitutional office is within the realm of possibility.
Still it is a big gamble to take on the sitting governor. Money would likely line up with the incumbent. Perhaps a qualified and well-financed Republican will step forward. Perhaps the governor will see a string of successes that would make a run at him from within his own party suicidal.
With the Top Two primary, however, the landscape changes for whomever can reach the finals.
In the dog days of summer when thinking about a column to write, all sorts of fancies pop into one’s head.