By Jim Ellis
Dec. 9, 2016 — Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) has yet to resign his seat after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) officially appointed him to replace Senator-Elect Kamala Harris (D) as California’s Attorney General, but already a crowded field to replace him is forming.
The 34th is a heavily Democratic district that features a 64.1 percent Hispanic population, and will almost assuredly evolve into a run-off between two Democrats.
Immediately upon Rep. Becerra being tabbed as the appointment, former state Assembly Speaker John Perez (D) declared his congressional candidacy. His action has hardly scared anyone away, however. State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D) then announced his candidacy, as did labor union activist Wendy Carillo (D). Also in the running is former Los Angeles City Council aide Sarah Hernandez (D), who claims she has put together more than $100,000 for a congressional run.
Hernandez’s former boss is LA City Councilman Jose Huizar (D). Already a poll has been fielded testing potential special election candidates. Public Policy Polling surveyed just after the Becerra appointment announcement (Dec. 1-2; 369 CA-34 registered voters), and found Huizar leading the pack of purported candidates with 22 percent of the vote. Huizar, however, says he will not become a congressional candidate.
Another potential candidate is LA School Board Member Monica Garcia (D). The PPP poll finds her the next strongest, as 14 percent of the polling respondents chose her. Following was Assemblyman Garcia with 10 percent. Ex-Speaker Perez, actively recruiting establishment Democrat support – Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) just endorsed him – trails badly with only 3 percent preference, dead last in the field of five tested candidates.
Another mentioned potential candidate is former County Supervisor Gloria Molina (D). She was a 23-year member of the Board but was ineligible to seek re-election in 2014 because of the county’s term limit law. Many believe being one of the five-member powerful County Board is a more powerful job than being in Congress. In fact, Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA-44) thinks so. She didn’t seek re-election this year in order to successfully run for a seat on the Board of Supervisors. It is unclear at this time if Molina will enter the congressional race, but would be a major candidate if she chooses to do so.
Others mentioned are LA City Councilman Gil Cedillo (D) who served in both the state Assembly and Senate before running unsuccessfully in a 2009 congressional special election, losing to current ep. Judy Chu (D-MRonterey Park). Former Los Angeles City Councilman Nick Pacheco (D) is also a potential candidate. He was included in the PPP poll but drew only 5 percent support.
Though Perez was once one of the most powerful elected officials in California, state politics tends to get lost in the shuffle in huge Los Angeles County. Therefore, out of elective office since the 2014 cycle when he was ineligible to seek re-election, it is not particularly surprising that his political base has begun to evaporate.
Gov. Terry Branstad’s (R) appointment as US Ambassador to China means that Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds (R) will replace him as governor upon confirmation to the foreign post. Branstad is the longest-serving governor in American history. He won election to four consecutive terms beginning in 1982, and then returned to office after the 2010 election. He was considering seeking re-election in 2018 before the Trump appointment.
Upon becoming governor, Reynolds will be in strong position to win the 2018 GOP nomination, and then would have to be considered at least the early favorite for the general election. Prior to becoming lieutenant governor, Reynolds, hailing from Osceola, served in the Iowa Senate. The state Republican convention delegates nominated her for lieutenant governor in 2010, after Gov. Branstad made it clear that she was his choice for the post.
Several Democratic state senators and current party chairman Andy McGuire have been testing the waters for a gubernatorial run. Iowa is always a competitive state, but has recently been trending toward the GOP. Donald Trump scored a 51-42lieutenant governor win here last month, and Sen. Charles Grassley (R) won a seventh term, 60-36 percent. In 2014, Sen. Joni Ernst (R) was elected with a 52-43 percent margin.