Whom Could Newsom Tap to Fill Kamala Harris’s Senate Seat?


Good morning.

Well, you know what this is going to be about.

Senator Kamala Harris of California is Joe Biden’s running mate.

She is a barrier-breaking candidate for a lot of reasons — not least among them: She is the first Black woman and the first Asian-American woman to be a major party’s vice-presidential nominee. She is also, as we mentioned last week, the first Californian on a major national ticket in a long time — and the most recent ones have been Republicans, not Democrats.

The announcement has already set off wild speculation about whom Gov. Gavin Newsom will tap to replace her (more on that in a minute).

What else does this portend for Californians and California politics? My fellow Los Angeles-based colleagues Adam Nagourney and Jennifer Medina took a minute to weigh in:

This is a big pick for California, but Mr. Biden winning California has never been much of a question. How much do you think Ms. Harris’s status as a Californian will factor into the campaign going forward?

Adam: We think that geography is not a big deal in veep choices any more. If there was ever any doubt about that, it probably ended with this selection. She won’t deliver California, because if there’s any state Biden doesn’t have to worry about, this is it. Gender and race have trumped (forgive the word!) geography in these selections. The last time it mattered was probably John F. Kennedy picking Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1960.

Jennifer: California partisans seemed thrilled to have one of their own on the ticket, perhaps because so many are used to the state being effectively irrelevant in presidential politics. The Trump campaign will undoubtedly try to paint her as an extreme liberal from California, as the president did during a news conference from the White House Tuesday. But in California, much of the criticism aimed at Ms. Harris has been from progressives who say that she is not liberal enough.

[Read their full story about how geography has taken a back seat to other parts of identity.]

What does Ms. Harris’s selection over Representative Karen Bass, in particular, tell you about whom Mr. Biden hopes to appeal to? (Not to oversimplify, but Ms. Harris has a law enforcement background, whereas, as you reported in your profile, Ms. Bass has deep credentials as a community organizer.)

Adam: Ms. Bass was a higher-risk choice, as became clear as more of her record came out. She came up as a community activist, and had ties to the left that Mr. Trump would have seized on.

Jennifer: Ms. Harris has been popular among suburban and college-educated women — her selection shows that the Biden campaign is focusing on appealing to moderates, rather than the more liberal wing of the party who pushed for Ms. Bass in the final weeks of the selection process.

As we’ve reported, this is going to set off a major game of musical chairs in California politics. If you had to bet, who’s going to replace her in the Senate?

Adam: I avoid the prediction business! But we’re hearing Ms. Bass for Senate. Here’s a conspiracy theory for you: Mr. Newsom picks Mayor Eric Garcetti, just to make absolutely sure Mr. Garcetti doesn’t think of primary-ing him in a few years.

Jennifer: Also never predict! But within minutes of the announcement, I had texts from politicos around the state throwing out names that included Ms. Bass, Mr. Garcetti, as well as State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, former Senate majority leader Kevin de Leon and Attorney General Xavier Becerra (who was appointed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown after Ms. Harris won her Senate seat). Needless to say, there will be a lot of jockeying in the coming months.

If they win, who else do you think will be tapped for positions in the administration?

Jennifer: See above on predictions!

What are your biggest questions going forward about how this will affect California politics?

Jennifer: One thing I will watch for: Which California leaders spend time on the (virtual) campaign trail stumping for the Biden-Harris ticket. That might — might! — give us a clue to the answers of your questions about the future too. (And as any California booster will remind us: California is where America’s future happens first.)

Read more:

  • Here’s where Ms. Harris stands on the issues. [The New York Times]

  • In an analysis, my colleagues write that Ms. Harris is both an energizing and a safe choice. [The New York Times]

  • Donald Trump is among the high-dollar donors who fueled Ms. Harris’s rise in California. [The Sacramento Bee]

  • Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland tweeted she’s “hella proud.” [Libby Schaaf]

  • “Ruh-Roh.” Maya Rudolph’s portrayal of Ms. Harris on “Saturday Night Live” earned the actress an Emmy nomination. She happened to be recording a panel when someone told her the news. [Entertainment Weekly]

Refresh your memory with these deeper dives:

  • Ms. Harris has tried to pitch herself as a progressive prosecutor. Her record has drawn criticism — but she’s said it’s possible to reform the criminal justice system from within. [The New York Times]

  • San Francisco is the closest thing the West Coast has to an East Coast enclave packed full of political giants. That’s where Ms. Harris came up. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • Explore how and when Ms. Harris has voted in Congress with this tracker. [ProPublica]

(This article is part of the California Today newsletter. Sign up to get it by email.)


Last night, but also tonight and through Aug. 26, if you go someplace dark and open, away from city lights and traffic, you may be able to catch a glimpse of a Perseid meteor shower.

During the display’s peak, between 160 and 200 meteors will streak through Earth’s atmosphere every hour.

There’s something soothing about the idea of gazing into the heavens and thinking about the rest of the universe.

And California is blessed with lots of beautiful places below a dark sky, like in Sonoma County, where The Press Democrat made this guide.

So if you miss this one, you can get reminders for other celestial events with our calendar.


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.





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