The Skinny

Here’s a hypothetical for that New Year’s hangover: Tom Lantos, the 14-term Bay Area Congressman who serves as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced Wednesday that he would retire from Congress at the end of his term after he was diagnosed with cancer. The announcement has far-reaching implications in the game of dominoes that marks California politics. Lantos’ announcement could affect everything from the race to replace him to the race for Assembly speaker. Former state Sen. Jackie Speier has already flirted with the idea of challenging Lantos and is all but sure to make her candidacy official. The question now becomes whether Sen. Leland Yee will challenge her for the job. In a perfect world, Yee would have liked Lantos to hang on until after districts are redrawn. If the South San Francisco-area district could be tweaked to incorporate the Asian-heavy areas of western San Francisco, it would make Yee’s electoral prospects that much better. But now, Yee must decide whether he wants to challenge Speier in an area where she served as a legislator and a county supervisor. If Yee were to run and win (he would have a free shot at the seat, since his Senate seat is not up until 2010), that would create an opening for Assemblywoman Fiona Ma in the state Senate. Of course, if Proposition 93 passes, Ma may opt out of the Senate run all together. It should be a fun one to watch. Let the games begin!

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