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Californians who are in the running for Biden cabinet

Image by gguy, via Shutterstock

California stands to gain additional clout in Washington when Joe Biden is sworn in as the nation’s 46th president on Jan. 20.

We already have Californians in powerful Washington positions, of course — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who was just reelected easily to her post, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield. With the current 53 members, California’s House delegation is the nation’s largest. (We may be dropped to 52 after the 2020 Census.) On top of that, we’re about to gain Vice President Kamala Harris, an Oakland native who’s now in the Senate.

Those are the most visible California players in Washington. But the Golden State is crammed with possible appointees to a Biden cabinet, for instance:

Xavier Becerra: The California attorney general has sued the Trump administration more than 100 times, mostly on environmental grounds. He is a former 12-term congressman, so Washington would be a familiar place for him if Biden promotes him to U. S. attorney general. If he doesn’t get the A. G. job, he might be appointed to Kamala Harris’s soon-to-be vacated seat in the U.S. Senate. Homeland Security is also a possibility. 

Meg Whitman: Surprisingly, Jerry Brown’s Republican opponent in the 2010 gubernatorial race – now a Biden supporter — is being mentioned for, perhaps, Commerce. Such a move would enhance Biden’s effort to demonstrate a competence-first, nonpartisan approach to governing. 

Tony Thurmond: California’s current state superintendent of public instruction, an African-American advocate for educational equity, is a possibility for secretary of education.

Julie Su: Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency and former California Labor commissioner, may be the next secretary of labor. 

Arun Majumdar and Dan Reicher, both Stanford professors, are possibilities for energy secretary.

Karen Bass, a former Assembly speaker and five-term congresswoman from Los Angeles, could head the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Other possibilities are Jared Blumenfeld, who now heads the California Environmental Protection Agency, and Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles, has been prominently mentioned for Secretary of Transportation.

All of the above positions require Senate confirmation, a not inconsiderable obstacle if the Senate remains in Republican hands and the implacable Mitch McConnell remains majority leader.

And then there’s Tom Steyer, a billionaire, an environmentalist and a former hedge fund manager, who has been active for years providing financial resources for Democrats. He reportedly met earlier with Ron Klain, Biden’s newly named chief of staff, to discuss the incoming administration, but reportedly no offers were made. Steyer has co-chaired Biden’s advisory panel on climate change.

Whoever makes the trip from Sacramento to Washington is likely to find a more welcoming attitude than what now exists in the Trump Administration. President Donald Trump has relished issuing broadsides against California, for instance tweeting in October that “California is going to hell.”

Aside from specific Californians who may be tapped for specific jobs in Washington, the state may gain more amorphous benefits with Biden in the Oval Office. With a seat at the table, California’s approach to dealing with climate change, immigration and trade policies may gain more traction in Washington.

In addition, the state’s enormous television and movie industries along with Silicon Valley’s ever-burgeoning hold on Americans’ daily lives may become even more consequential in the years ahead. They cannot help but receive a warmer reception from the White House than they did under President Trump.

The president told reporters in 2019 that Hollywood has foisted  “dangerous” movies on society and ” Hollywood is really terrible.”

The red carpet may also be out for long list of Hollywood celebrities, including Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Cher, Alec Baldwin and Lady Gaga, who have all been publicly critical of Trump. Biden’s supporters include Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand, Rob Reiner and George Clooney, among others.

Of course, amid all the speculation about an emerging Biden-California connection and the emergence of Sen. Harris as the incoming vice president, some of the more cynical Sacramento observers may remember what Mark Twain once said of a rising young politician:

“He was elected vice president and was never heard from again.”

Ed’s Note: Corrects spelling of Sue to Su, 7th graf.


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