Did the Democrats just gift California Republicans a viable candidate for governor?

Republicans don’t have a real candidate for governor in 2018. The two best possibilities – former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and current San Diego Alcalde Kevin Faulconer – don’t seem too interested. And who can blame them? The party brand is tarnished, and the party leadership has been making missteps, like bringing the party together behind President Trump, who could lose statewide to the Devil if the Prince of the Underworld decided to make a run for office.

Into this hopeless voids drops hope, in the form of State Senator Janet Nguyen.

Nguyen became well-known—a “star,” the LA Times called her – after she was removed from the floor while criticizing the late Tom Hayden. Nguyen was trying to make the point that Hayden and some others in the anti-war left went too far and ended up not just opposing the war in Vietnam but siding with the North Vietnamese government, with disastrous consequences for millions of Vietnamese people, including members of her own family.

Whether her point was right or not (I’m sympathetic to her view—it’s shocking to go back in archives and see publicly expressed support for Ho Chi Minh), Democratic legislators were wrong in pulling her from the floor. And they’ve created a sensation that has quickly made Nguyen one of the better known Republicans in the state. She’s just about the only one to be making regular appearances on Southern California TV news lately.

Of course, Nguyen is just 40 and she’s unproven on the state level. But so are many of the other candidates and potential candidates, Democrats and Republicans. And her youth may serve to point out how old California’s leading Democrats have gotten. It’s not just Dianne Feinstein, who is north of 80, or Jerry Brown and Nancy Pelosi, who are long past 70. But Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris are eligible for AARP member, north of 50, and Antonio Villaraigosa has reached Paul McCartney’s favorite age, 64 (though you look a decade younger, Mr. Mayor).

Nguyen also is a balm for California Republicans who have fallen into the black hole of Trump support. She has said she didn’t vote for Trump and that she disagrees with him on too many issues to name. That view may not be popular with some Republicans, but it’s a necessary starting point for any Republican to win statewide in this proudly Never Trump state.

Campaigns have been built on less than one incident on the floor of the legislature. And there’s no time like the present. Republicans shouldn’t look this Democratic gift horse in the mouth. Janet Nguyen should run for governor.