By Melody Gutierrez
Published: November 18, 2016
Updated: November 19, 2016 – 6:33pm
SACRAMENTO — As Kamala Harris prepares to take the job held by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, it’s anyone’s guess who will take Harris’ place as California’s attorney general.
Gov. Jerry Brown can make the appointment as soon as Harris leaves the position, but he has not indicated who he is considering. Several names have been tossed around by political observers. Among them are Bay Area district attorneys: Alameda County’s Nancy O’Malley, San Francisco’s George Gascón and Santa Clara’s Jeff Rosen.
Harris’ departure gives Brown significant influence over who is ultimately voted into the office in 2018. Once appointed, the attorney general can run as an incumbent in that race.
“I would assume the governor would look at someone who he thinks can get into the job running,” said political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe. “I would assume he would look at a Democrat with a chance of being elected to the position in two years. I also think he would consider diversity.”
Attorney general is considered the state’s second most powerful position behind governor because of the significant powers the office wields. The attorney general oversees thousands of lawyers and police officers and defends the state in civil and criminal courts.
The attorney general is also responsible for writing the title and summary for ballot measures, which often frame how a voter perceives an initiative.
“That is often the only thing a voter reads,” Jeffe said. “That’s not an insignificant power.”
Brown’s office declined to discuss what the governor is considering in a new attorney general or say who is on his short list of candidates.
Former state Attorney General Bill Lockyer said the election of Donald Trump as president could influence who Brown selects. Brown and legislative leaders are leery that Trump and the Republican-majority Congress could attempt law changes that would override the state’s climate change policies.
“The (state) attorney general could play in a role in that,” Lockyer said.
After a San Francisco news conference to discuss hate crimes on Friday, Gascón chose his words carefully when asked how he would feel if he were offered the top cop job.
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