Writing about political horse races are always more interesting than dissecting the details of policy but aren’t we a bit ahead of ourselves with all the stories about potential presidential candidates in 2020? The current president has been in office far less than a month and already journalists are drawing up lists and making conjectures about who might run for president.
The race for California governor is even closer in time but still nearly two years away however news accounts on the governor’s race fill pages. And, yes, this site is just as guilty as the rest. In fact, this column is exhibit A, jumping into the pool of odd and premature political stories (and using other premature political stories as an excuse for doing so!)
California’s junior senator, Kamala Harris, has only been in office a month and is included on lists of possible presidential candidates while often being asked about her interest in running for president.
Come on, give Harris a chance to be a senator.
To Harris’ credit she offered appropriate answers to the inquiries. Recently, she told Patt Morrison of the L.A. Times, “I don’t know why my name is in that context. I’m focused on being the junior senator from California and very proud to be representing our beautiful state.”
A lot can happen in four years—or two years once the midterm elections are over and attention on the next presidential race heats up. Harris has a learning curve in the senate and her positions and actions over time will be tallied either supporting or diminishing her chances for higher office.
While Harris may have enthusiasts in left leaning California, she is still a San Francisco Democrat. That term may not have the pejorative meaning it carried when uttered by UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick at the 1984 Republican convention but San Francisco values may still prove an obstacle in a national election.
There even have been articles suggesting that Governor Jerry Brown could be interested in a fourth presidential run when he finishes his governorship. He’ll be in his 80s but far be it for an old man like me to claim age as a barrier.
Greater conjecture focuses on Brown’s interest in Dianne Feinstein’s senate seat if California’s senior senator decides to retire. There have been suggestions that Feinstein could step down early and Brown would appoint himself as her successor. (Wouldn’t Lt. Governor and gubernatorial hopeful Gavin Newsom like that!)
The discussion of Brown moving to the senate at the end of his final and fourth term as governor forced me to consider some California history of a governor who moved to the senate not at the end but at the very beginning of his term as the state’s chief executive.
Halfway down the south stairway from the first floor in the old section of the state capitol hangs the portrait of Gov. Milton Latham. On the plaque beneath the portrait Latham’s term of office is recorded: January 9 to January 14, 1860—5 days.
It seems Governor Latham had a hankering for Washington, too.
California senator David Broderick was killed in a duel with former California Chief Justice David Terry in September 1859, less than a week after Latham won the governor’s race by a near two-to-one margin over his closest rival. But Latham was convinced he was more cut out for Washington and persuaded the legislature, responsible at that time to choose a state’s senators, to give him a ticket east.
Political ambition is as alive and well today as it has always been.
Yes, its fun to conjecture who might run for which office but there is little meaning in these too-early analyses.