Who Does Gavin Pick if Kamala Leaves?

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The political parlor game of guessing who Gov. Gavin Newsom might choose to replace Kamala Harris in the US Senate if she becomes Vice President of the United States is heating up. Many oddsmakers have California’s junior senator as leading the pack as Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick. With Biden currently enjoying a double digit lead in the polls over Donald Trump, if all the pegs fall in the right holes, Harris would resign her senate seat to take up new duties as Vice President.

Then Newsom has the not-so-easy task of choosing Harris’s successor. Who will it be?

I participated in the guessing game as one of the guests on John Howard’s and Tim Foster’s Capitol Weekly’s podcast addressing the issue.

Opinions were offered by well known political insiders Garry South, Fran Pavley, Roger Salazar, Adama Iwu, and Karen Skelton along with myself.

Below are some of the thoughts I offered on the podcast. To hear all the opinions listen to the full podcast here.

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The first name I put forward was Milton Latham.

Who?

You’ll find his portrait in the State Capitol. Milton Latham was the 6th governor of California. His term of governor lasted all of five days, from January 9 to January 14, 1860. The reason I mentioned Latham is because he decided rather than governor he wanted to be a United States Senator. If Gavin Newsom has the same desire he could pull it off easier than Latham.

That’s because today a governor can appointment him or her self to an empty senate seat. In Latham’s day, the legislature was designated as the body to choose senators. Latham appealed to the Legislature for the post made vacant months before when Senator David Broderick was killed in a duel with former California Chief Justice David Terry.

If Governor Newsom tires of dealing with a pandemic, a crippled economy and delicate deliberations about protests and police, the senate beckons.

But something tells me that Newsom enjoys where he is and has no desire to change.

So whom might he pick?

Newsom political problem is that his Democratic Party is sensitive to different constituencies that want one of their own in the senate.

The governor has many to choose from. In the top tier I suggested Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Congresswoman Karen Bass.

By appointing Padilla, Newsom gets a two-for because he then gets to appoint the next Secretary of State. Bass, as leader of the Black Caucus on the police reform effort, is high profile in an area that holds the public’s attention.

But satisfying the Latino Caucus or the Black Caucus are not the only groups that support the party and would like to be represented in the senate. For example, I suggested former legislator and current Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl as a possibility that would please both the LBGTQ and progressive communities.

To avoid stress for the governor in offending any of his bases, I suggested Newsom follow the model set by John F. Kennedy after he was elected president and left the senate.

Kennedy wanted his younger brother Ted to be senator but he wasn’t constitutionally old enough so Kennedy had the Massachusetts governor appoint a seat warmer, a friend of the family who would be a U. S. Senator for two years and pledge not to run for the seat at the next election. Leave it open for brother Ted. That’s what happened.

Gov. Newsom announces that the choice of a senator really belongs to the people of California, not one individual. There are many good, qualified candidates, he says, but adds they should all seek the seat through the electoral process. Let the people decide!

In the meantime, Newsom will appoint a senior Democratic politician who pledges not to run for the seat when the term ends, and with hope that the pledge is kept, the appointee is of an advanced age. 

Newsom has a number of potential seniors he can appoint, all in their 80s. Former state senator John Burton, former Governor Jerry Brown, former Assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor Willie Brown. Each one would keep the spotlight on California.

And Newsom’s political problems serving a party that revels in identity is solved.

Listen to what all those interviewed had to say on the Capitol Weekly podcast.

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