As political dominoes fall, Sen. Kevin de León seems closer to grabbing the position of president pro tem of the state senate.
With the announcement yesterday that Congressman George Miller would retire, state senator Mark DeSaulnier said he would run for Miller’s seat taking him out of the competition for pro tem. DeSaulnier was considered de Leon’s chief rival for the pro tem post.
Rumor has it that de León is close to having the votes needed to become pro tem, perhaps one of the reasons DeSaulnier wasted no time in jumping at the congressional seat opening.
With his main rival for the position out of the picture will an alternative arise to battle de León for the job?
The biggest roadblock in front of the Los Angeles senator is that his name appears numerous times in the leaked FBI affidavit that tagged Sen. Ron Calderon in a bribery sting. However, no charges have been made against any individuals, including Calderon, and de León has a letter from federal prosecutors stating that de León is a witness and not a target in the investigation.
How well de León will work with Governor Jerry Brown is worth considering. De León’s agenda is not shy about proposing new government programs. The governor says he doesn’t want to spend a state surplus on new programs.
Of course, de León will not be in a position to lead the senate in the coming budget debate. Darrell Steinberg says he has unfinished business and probably wants to remain in the powerful senate position as long as possible. If there is a timetable for Steinberg to step down, it is not public.
If de León eventually captures the pro tem post he is likely to continue on the path set by Steinberg, probably veering even further to the left.
One rumored alternative to de León is newly installed senator Holy Mitchell. Another possibility is not even in the senate at this time.
If the decision on a new pro tem is held off until after the election, an alternative to de León may be in play in the person of former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg.
In September, I wrote about the speculation that Hertzberg would win the San Fernando Valley senate seat he was contesting and might mount a last minute run for the pro tem position.
Still possible. It would seem implausible, historically, that the two most talked about challengers to de Leon’s bid for president pro tem have a cumulative time in the senate of less than four months at this moment. However, in the era of term limits the legislature has gotten used to choosing leaders with little experience. Current Assembly Speaker John Perez was not long on the job when he captured the top assembly post.
Still, de León’s hopes for capturing pro tem moved a step closer to reality after yesterday’s news.