ANALYSIS: There are rumblings beneath the surface about the danger of a race-tinged political war breaking out within the California Democratic Party.
Here we have Attorney General Kamala Harris, of African-American and East Indian (Tamil) descent, and on the other hand, we have Antonio Ramón Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles who is, what else, Latino. Both yearn to be the next U. S. senator after current senator Barbara Boxer steps down in 2016. Tony V’s challenge is to rouse the big Latino population of Los Angeles and the rest of California on his behalf in a primary race against fellow Democrat Harris. He realizes more than anyone the huge, mostly untapped, potential of the Latino vote. Harris would have the Northern California Democratic establishment, and, presumably, the preponderance of African-American voters on her side.
Someone needs to get on the phone to the White House, pronto.
The resulting race, if there is one, could be bloody fratricide.
But wait! Salvation is at hand. There is a way out. Herewith, a five-step plan leading to blessed peace:
1. President Obama is persuaded to appoint Boxer to a really terrific position. Maybe a judgeship. Boxer might be interested. After all, she wouldn’t have to put up with Ted Cruz any more. (Of course, she might have to put up with some colleagues appointed to the federal bench by Dubya, but perhaps not). The whole thing would hinge on getting the president to do something for his stalwart fellow Democrat. Someone needs to get on the phone to the White House, pronto.
2. Six months before the end of her term, maybe even a little earlier, Boxer indeed steps down to take the lush position. Governor Jerry Brown appoints Harris to the now-vacant Senate seat; no one dares challenge her when the November 2016 campaigns begin months after she hangs her plaques on her senate office wall. After all, she’s an incumbent senator with heavy-duty backing that is even more heavy duty now that she’s an incumbent.
3. Or Brown appoints Tony V. to the job. No one challenges him, either. He’s an incumbent senator with lots of backing, because Democrats would unite in their desire to avoid a silly and damaging intra-party fight. Harris bides her time and thinks again about the governorship. Gavin Newsom swears softly to himself.
4. Or — and here’s the beauty part — Jerry, not yet suffering from too much maturity, appoints his maybe-by-then-78-year-old self as California’s new senator replacing Boxer. He steps down as governor and goes to Washington. Remember, Jerry ran for senator ‘way back in ’82, only to be defeated by Pete Wilson. After serving as secretary of state, attorney general, Oakland mayor and 12-plus years as governor, he may be eager to carve yet another notch in his political bedpost. In past years, Jerry has exhibited a minimal attention span, so after 12-plus years as governor, he may well be ready for new adventures. Gavin Newsom becomes the governor of California earlier than expected. Harris and Villaraigosa are left pondering the unfairness of life.
5. There is no bloody Democratic fight, so whoever is appointed rolls to an easy November 2016 victory over the hapless Republican offered up as the sacrificial lamb.
So there you have it; a practical, down-to-earth plan to avoid a bloodbath and secure yet another victory for Truth, Justice, The American Way and Democrats. Republicans, prepare to lick your already well-licked wounds.
Having put the above plan into action, and then holding hands in joyous unity, the Democrats in 2016 roll to yet another victory in blue state California. After all, what could possibly go wrong among Democrats?
Ed’s Note: Chuck McFadden was an Associated Press reporter in Sacramento many years ago. He is the author of “Trailblazer: A Biography of Jerry Brown” from the University of California Press.