Speculation by Capitol insiders that Bob Hertzberg, one time Assembly Speaker, now running for a San Fernando Valley state senate seat, is already in the mix to be the next president pro tem of the senate, may intensify given recent political moves.

Hertzberg’s endorsement list is beginning to look like a small telephone book in length, and while there are no absolutes in politics, few would bet against him winning the seat and returning to the legislature after an absence of more than ten years. With his experience and connections he immediately becomes a force to be reckoned with under the dome.

For a long time it was assumed that Kevin de León was in line to be the next senate pro tem. But political watchers detest a vacuum created by no contest. De León may very well wrap up the votes he needs before Hertzberg comes onto the scene, but current pro tem Darrell Steinberg has lots of plans he is pushing and has no intention of stepping down from the leadership post until he has to.

Other names have been floated for the powerful pro tem’s office. As Scott Lay noted in his Nooner column last week “The rumor of Holly Mitchell as a Pro Tem candidate definitely has legs…” but then he went on to add: “…although some see her as a caretaker between when Darrell Steinberg steps down and when Bob Hertzberg makes a move to take the gavel.”

What raises the stakes in this conjecturing is the highly visible difference of opinion current pro tem Steinberg has with Governor Jerry Brown over plans to reduce the state’s prison population to meet a court mandate.

Makes one wonder who Brown might be secretly rooting for to be the next senate head.

De León’s liberal credentials rival those of Steinberg. Brown would likely still be looking for a restraining hand on the legislature, even if he is re-elected to a second (or should we write fourth) term in the same election that Hertzberg regains a legislative office.