Thursday, January 22, 2015

CA-Senate: Steyer won't run, but others inch closer

The biggest piece of California Senate news today is billionaire Tom Steyer's decision not to run. That comes after we get word that Latinos are angry about the seeming Kamala Harris coronation and congressmen Adam Schiff and Xavier Becerra have indicated they're looking hard at the race.

Steyer's decision not to run is a mild surprise but he seemed to have the potential to be no more than a spoiler. He's a progressive from Northern California, the same as Kamala Harris. He'd be going for the same voters and likely coming up short. Latinos are right to be angry. There's a great opportunity for a Latino Democrat to win the seat and Latinos are a big part of the Democratic coalition. They certainly don't expect their own party to stack the deck against them.

I think we can confirm the adage that every congressman wants to be a senator. Becerra and Schiff are the fifth and sixth Democrat we've heard about who've considered a run. And a couple who were thought to be interested, e.g. Raul Ruiz, Ami Bera, haven't weighed in. If they want to be a senator as badly as they appear to the question isn't whether they'll run, but when. If you're 34 years old like Eric Swalwell, it's easy to see that there'll be another day with a better opportunity. Schiff will be 56 in 2016. He's older than Harris. If he passes here and when DiFi's retires there might not be another opening before he retires. Jackie Speier will be 66 in 2016. It's now or never.

I think people you can't discount the double opportunity in California. If you win, you're in. If you don't, you've just run a statewide campaign where you raised a lot of money and gotten a lot of votes. You're setting yourself up for 2018 when Dianne Feinstein retires. If you finish third, or even fourth, you could be the favorite for that seat.

The PPP poll showed that any Northern California Democrat would be a big underdog to Harris. I can't see any beating her. Her concern is that a Speier or Garamendi would grab 5-10% of the vote and eat into her total enough she doesn't finish Top Two. Every Northern California Democrat who passes is good news for Harris, but she's not out of the woods yet.

Steyer dropping out might encourage other Democrats to get in. You don't have to worry about him spending $100 million and drowning you out. Harris certainly will raise a lot of money, somewhere in the $10-$20 million range. That's easier to deal with than Harris and Steyer.

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