Shortly after California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced she was running to fill Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat in 2016, several prominent Democrats rushed to her side.
That’s fine. People are allowed to support anyone they like in a race, and Harris is an impressive and eloquent candidate.
What’s not fine at all, however, is for Harris’ supporters to shut down other viable candidates before they are even candidates.
That’s why we are more than a little offended at the suggestion by former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown that former Assembly Speaker and Los Angeles Mayor (and, perhaps now, former friend) Antonio Villaraigosa ought to sit out the Senate race. Brown is supporting Harris.
Villaraigosa, who left public office in 2012, has not yet announced whether he will run for the seat, though he is widely expected to do so.
And why not? His political résumé is solid. Though he’s had some personal challenges ending in a divorce, he had measurable policy accomplishments in America’s second-largest city and is well-known in Washington, D.C.
In exchange for bowing out, “I am hopeful that his candidacy will be rewarded with a statewide office — at some point,” Brown told Sacramento Bee reporter Christopher Cadelago.
In other words, Villaraigosa, 62, should just sit down and wait his turn.
This rush to rally around Harris has annoyed some Latino politicos, especially as the population of Latinos in the state grows. Besides Villaraigosa, there are other qualified Latino Senate candidates including veteran Reps. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles and Loretta Sanchez of Orange County.
Yes, we know political machines seek to manipulate the process, selecting candidates and deciding whose turn it is in any given race, and we know that the Bay Area politicos pull many of the strings of California’s political machine.
But surely someone realizes that dismissing the state’s politically and demographically ascendant Latinos and populous Southern California is the wrong way to achieve Democratic party unity.
This is one of the most important elected offices in the land. The next senator from California will become an instant player on the national stage. She or he will impact the state and the nation for years to come. Californians deserve to choose from a slate of qualified candidates, not merely the ones whom queen- and kingmakers such as Brown seek to coronate.