George Skelton

George Skelton, Los Angeles Times
January 15, 2015

Who will be California’s next U.S. senator, replacing the retiring Democrat Barbara Boxer?

It’ll be another Democrat, bet on that.

State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, 50, is the early front-runner. But we’ll have to see how she performs running for a big-time office.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, 61, is sounding like a candidate. And he probably should be. He desires higher office, and this is likely his best shot.

Billionaire climate-change activist Tom Steyer, 57, probably won’t run. And he probably shouldn’t. There’s a long history of failure in California for mega-rich political neophytes trying to start their elective careers at the top.

But there are some wild-card members of Congress who could jump into the race and tilt it one way or the other.
Boxer Senate seat

And that’s just for 2016.

Suddenly in the past week, the political picture for 2018 also has become a bit clearer. Who will succeed the finally termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown? It won’t be Harris if she wins the Senate seat. And if she loses, she’ll be damaged goods.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, 47, quickly took himself out of the Senate speculation, refreshingly asserting that “it’s always better to be candid than coy.” He’s obviously planning to run for governor, the job he covets, although you won’t be hearing him say that publicly for a while.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Newsom told me. “But I’m here for the long haul. Hopefully, I’m on a path.”

A path to the governor’s office.

The former San Francisco mayor, a fifth-generation Californian, has a special interest in governing the state, where there’s so much family history. The first California Newsom arrived here during the year of statehood, 1850. His grandfather developed Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, and was a pal of Gov. Pat Brown, Jerry’s dad.

“My life is California,” he says. “Everything I care about is here.”

All this political jockeying of recent days has provided a wonderful spectator sport for us junkies.

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