Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
01/22/2015 8:18 PM

For two weeks, ever since Sen. Barbara Boxer declared she would not run for a fifth term in 2016, hedge fund billionaire/environmental activist Tom Steyer had conducted a Hamlet-like soliloquy.

“To be a senator or not to be a senator?” Steyer figuratively asked the question in public utterances and trial balloons floated by his political advisers.

On Thursday, he deigned to tell us that it’s not to be, at least in 2016.

“This was a very hard decision,” Steyer said on the Huffington Post website, adding: “Given the imperative of electing a Democratic president, along with my passion for our state, I believe my work right now should not be in our nation’s capital but here – at home in California, and in states around the country where change is on the move.”

Democratic Party leaders, one presumes, breathed a sigh of relief. Not only would Steyer’s essentially bottomless pit of money have roiled the political waters uncomfortably, but they want him to spend his jillions on electing a Democratic president and, they hope, winning back control of the Senate.

Steyer’s retreat from the senatorial fray means, most likely, that it will be a duel between Attorney General Kamala Harris, who has already declared her candidacy, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who’s clearly on the verge.

Harris is certainly pleased that Steyer is out because she has hoped to cruise to a senatorial victory virtually by default. The effect on Villaraigosa, presuming he runs, is less certain because having Steyer beating up on Harris might have improved his chances.

Latino political leaders have been peeved, according to numerous published accounts, that Harris was being anointed by Democratic leaders as the senator-in-waiting without waiting for Villaraigosa or some other Latino figure, such as Rep. Xavier Becerra, to decide.

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