Picking Senator Harris’ Replacement After Proposition 16’s Defeat

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

The suggestions of a replacement for California Senator Kamala Harris when she resigns to assume the office of Vice-President are piling up. Most come from interest groups with rationales that one of their own deserve the prized senate seat primarily based on the candidate’s identification with a demographic group. All this sounds contradictory in a state where voters just rejected the idea of choosing people for positions based on their identity. 

African Americans say Harris’s seat should be filled by a Black like her. Harris also has Asian roots and the Asian American Chamber of Commerce has written to the governor with a list of names from that community. Latinos argue they deserve the seat in a state in which Latinos outnumber other ethnicities; the LGBTQ community has spoken up for one of their own; and women organizations say Kamala Harris must be replaced by a woman. 

Strategist Liz Mair, who studied the possible seat-fillers, said she would bet on Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia who is Latino, gay, accomplished and young. And by the way an early endorser of Newsom’s gubernatorial run. 

Newsom is known as a person who likes to “make history.” Appointing the first Latino or first gay person to the senate would fit that approach.

But why all this attention in choosing a U.S. senator on how that individual is classified? 

Didn’t the voters pass on an opportunity to repeal the affirmative action ban from the state constitution? 

While not exactly the same thing, lifting the ban would allow consideration of race and gender in college application and contracting. If the first box that has to be checked in a senate application is race, gender or nationality that seems to go against the will of the people. 

Not that Newsom has let the will of the people be a barrier in the direction he wants to lead. Most recently, he ignored the affirmation of the death penalty by California voters when he announced no death penalty punishments on his watch. 

Choosing a senator by certain characteristics not only goes against the Proposition 16 vote to cancel the effort to remove the affirmative action ban, it also provides a headache for the governor. By selecting a person from a specific group, emphasizing that the selection was guided by the person’s identity with the group, he will upset other interests who did not have a favorite son or daughter chosen. 

Once again, I offer a solution to the governor to avoid this dilemma. Appoint a grizzled California veteran pol to hold the Harris seat until the next election, then all the interests that want to see someone from their group get the job can run for the open seat. In that way, policy, not identity, would come to the fore as candidates seek votes from the mosaic of California voters.

 

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