Who will Newsom pick for Harris’ Senate seat?

Aug 12, 2020 | Cal Matters

Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, August 12.

Let the lobbying begin

Sen. Kamala Harris at the Enclave in Las Vegas on April 27, 2019. Photo by Gage Skimore via Flickr

Joe Biden chose California Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate Tuesday, putting the Golden State on the national ticket for the first time in nearly 40 years and launching yet another game of political musical chairs — this time in the hands of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

If Biden and Harris win in November, Newsom will decide who gets to fill Harris’ Senate seat through the end of her term in 2022. And there are plenty of ambitious California Democrats who would love the job — which means Newsom has months of lobbying and political calculations ahead of him, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.

Setting aside the possibility that Newsom could resign and fill the seat himself, here are the main factors the governor will likely consider:

  • Ethnicity. California has never sent a Latino to the Senate despite Latinos making up 40% of its population. Possible contenders include Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
  • Gender. Women in 2016 won just over 25% of Senate seats for the first time in history, and “you don’t want to be the one who diminishes the number of women,” said political strategist and former Newsom employee Nathan Ballard. Possible contenders include Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass.
  • Electability. Strategists say it’s important Newsom picks someone likely to be reelected — no governor wants to lose a loyal friend in Washington.

Harris, who emerged as a top vice-presidential contender in the wake of protests over racism and police brutality — even as her records as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general faced scrutiny — is the first woman of color to appear on a major party’s presidential ticket.

  • Newsom: “Principled. Brilliant. Compassionate. Empathetic. Honest. The perfect choice for Joe Biden. That’s Kamala Harris.”

Meanwhile, California lawmakers are already making their preferences for Harris’ Senate replacement known to Newsom.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, California had 574,411 confirmed coronavirus cases and 10,468 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.


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Other stories you should know

1. Is California bending the curve again?

Image via iStock

In an early sign that California may be bending the coronavirus curve once more, hospitalizations have dropped 33% and intensive-care admissions 14% over the past two weeks, CalMatters’ hospital tracker shows. Nevertheless, the scope of infections in the state remains opaque, as thousands of backlogged coronavirus test results are still trickling in from a data glitch solved over the weekend — and Newsom on Monday was reluctant to say that California had made it over the hump.

  • Newsom: “Encouraging signs … but not the kind of stability and long-term decline we need ultimately to get.”

Hospitals and ICUs remain crowded in the hard-hit Central Valley, where many Latinos and farmworkers have been afflicted with the virus. Cases are also surging in California children and teenagers, whose infection rate shot up 150% from last month, according to the Los Angeles Times.

2. Loophole led to more than 1,600 pandemic evictions

Jamie Burson in a motel room in Fairfield on August 4. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

More than 1,600 Californians have been evicted amid the pandemic due to a loophole in the state eviction moratorium — which will likely expire Sept. 1, foreshadowing more evictions and a “homelessness Armageddon” unless the state Legislature comes up with a solution in time, CalMatters’ Matt Levin, Nigel Duara and Erica Yee report in an exclusive story. Meanwhile, the loophole remains open, putting renters at risk of losing their homes and their ability to shelter in place. After being evicted from their Vacaville apartment, Jamie Burson and her 11-year-old son lived in a car for a while, with the child attempting to log onto distance learning sessions from the seat where he slept.

  • Madeline Howard of the Western Center on Law and Poverty: “(These evictions) could have been prevented.”
  • Todd Rothbard, attorney who represented Burson’s apartment complex in the eviction lawsuit: “To the extent people need help, it’s nice to see when society is able to provide help. But it is somewhat unfair to say to a landlord who is in business, ‘Hey, now it’s your obligation to support this person.’ Because it’s not.”

3. Flood of released prisoners overwhelms reentry system

Chris Scull, released from San Quentin last month, sits at a Hayward park on Aug. 10. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

As coronavirus rages through California’s prison system, thousands of inmates are being released early, straining the Golden State’s patchwork reentry system as advocates scramble to find transportation, housing and food for released inmates — many of whom tested positive for or were exposed to the virus, Robert Lewis reports for CalMatters. These inmates are supposed to quarantine for two weeks before reentering the community, but state corrections department officials said they can’t force them to remain quarantined — raising concerns that the releases could lead to community spread of the virus.

  • Judith Tata, executive director of the California Reentry Program: “I had friends out there protesting saying, ‘Let them out.’ I said, ‘You don’t understand. There’s no system outside that can handle this.’”
  • Sharon Dolovich, a UCLA law professor: “When the house is on fire you get people out. You don’t keep someone in a burning house to wait for them to have a place to land.”

CalMatters events

August 13: How Will 6 Million California Students Handle Remote Learning? Register | Submit Your Questions

August 18: Student Town Hall with California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. Register | Submit Your Questions

August 19: Student Town Hall with California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White. Register | Submit Your Questions

August 20: How the Pandemic is Affecting Children’s Mental Health. Register | Submit Your Questions

Visit our events page for more information. Questions or comments? Email info@calmatters.org.


CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: An embarrassing glitch in reporting COVID-19 infection data is the latest in a long string of state information technology failures.

Redefining student success: Schools will look different this year, so educators should reset success measures to align with more holistic outcomes, argue Roman Stearns of Scaling Student Success and Mary Perry, an independent consultant.

Fix AB 5 amendment: Assembly Bill 2257 falls short of fixing AB 5’s problems and threatens to jeopardize the livelihoods of professional interpreters like me, writes Jennifer Santiagos, a freelance professional certified health-care interpreter.

Missing out on a $20 billion market: California should permit hemp CBD to be used in food, beverage and cosmetics to help stimulate the economy, argues Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, a Winters Democrat.


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Other things worth your time

CalVet’s response to coronavirus shows nursing home deaths could have been averted. // Politico

Los Angeles police union to Mayor Eric Garcetti: Don’t drag us into your plan to crack down on party houses. // Los Angeles Times

Garcetti’s top homeless advisor to resign by end of month. // Los Angeles Times

How the first day of distance learning went at Oakland Unified. // The Oaklandside

Kaiser Permanente donates $63 million to expand coronavirus tracing in California. // Sacramento Bee

Newsom, Harris and Pelosi score prime speaking spots at Democratic National Convention. // San Francisco Chronicle


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