If Kamala Runs, She Should Resign

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The United States, bitter and angry, needs more of the California spirit. It’d be terrific if that included electing a California president.

But California also needs a full-time U.S. Senator.

Which is why Kamala Harris should resign her seat as soon as she launches her run for president.Put simply, having Harris on the campaign trail would leave California even more poorly represented in the U.S. Senate. That’s intolerable, because the Senate is essentially a conspiracy against California. We get just 2 senators to represent 40 million people.

That means our senators must be more than full-time in their focus on defending our state. And the need for such defense has never been greater than right now, with the Trump administration and GOP leaders—including Kevin McCarthy—declaring war on our state. Harris is especially important because she’s more representative of where the state is going than our senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, who is the oldest member of the Senate, and has been less than reliable when it comes to countering Trump.

Yes, Harris can run back to Washington for votes, as previous senators running for president have done. And yes, she would raise California’s profile and amplify her voice, which would be useful if she returns to the Senate after a campaign.

But a campaign also could hurt her standing. And given the fact that California isn’t popular in the rest of the country, she may have to run away from us.

Harris, according to recent reports, is already running away from California in one significant respect. She won’t have her campaign based in the Golden State—she’s looking at Baltimore and Atlanta instead. Those are both great towns—I started my newspaper career in Baltimore and would happily recommend restaurants. But those are not places that one of California’s two senators should be.

Politicians don’t like to give up their seats. So Harris would be distinguishing herself by giving up the seat—showing she’s not just another politician. She’d also be a stronger presidential candidate if she focused on that campaign. She has a real chance, and I’ll be rooting for her.

And in the process, she would allow Gov. Gavin Newsom to beef up California’s defense force by appointing her replacement. That new someone wouldn’t be distracted by a presidential campaign; he or she could do nothing else but the Senate gig.

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