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The next big question for California politicians

When asked in August if potential candidates had started running for the job, Mr Newsom laughed.

“You might be the only one who hasn’t, unless you just did – and that’s just a slight exaggeration,” the governor replied.

On Monday, the governor again refused to talk about who he was considering and did not give a timeline for his decision, noting that the current White House occupant still had not conceded and did not have no longer been able to speak. with Ms. Harris “on her own schedule and needs”.

“The process is only just beginning to unfold,” Newsom said.

As my colleague Shawn Hubler has pointed out previously, Mr. Newsom will have to balance many potentially competing considerations in making his choice.

Ms. Harris, for example, is only the second black woman in the United States Senate. Many Californians may want to see another black woman or a woman of color take the seat. Ms Bass’s name appeared, as did Rep. Barbara Lee and Mayor London Breed of San Francisco.

But Latinos make up about 40% of the state’s population, and the state has never had a Latino senator.

Political observers have noted Mr Newsom’s penchant for being able to label his movements as making history. And two of its top administration officials, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla, are Latino men.

Mr Sonenshein told me recently that another major consideration will be who can hang on to the seat in 2022.

[Read the full story from August on the jockeying for Ms. Harris’s Senate seat.]

While Mr. Becerra has raised his profile in recent years, leading the state’s numerous lawsuits against the Trump administration, Mr. Padilla has been at the center of orchestrating a back-to-back election during a pandemic – which has still attracted an all-time high and mostly flawless turnout.

Ms Bass, he said, is “a quiet force, but much appreciated by the Democratic Party”.

The math will change once some of the potential choices are picked up by the Biden administration. Mr Becerra, for example, could be vying for a post as head of a Justice Department in Biden.

Mr Sonenshein said he viewed Mr Padilla as ‘in the lead’, and Mr Becerra and Ms Bass as completing some sort of first row of likely suitors.

Yet Mr Sonenshein said: “Many surprises are possible.”

[Read more from Politico about which Californians might be tapped for the Biden-Harris administration.]

A common denominator signals a perhaps more interesting change in the state, however, Mr. Sonenshein said: “The top three are all from Southern California.”

For years, he said, there has been a feeling that Democrats in Northern California are “passing jobs.”

But if the governor chooses a senator linked to Southern California, on the heels of top-tier progressive victories in Los Angeles, it would fuel the idea that the center of Democratic politics – in California and, by extension, in the country – moved to the south.

In any case, Mr Newsom still faces a raging pandemic. On Monday, he stressed that this was his top priority.

(This article is part of California today newsletter. Register to have it delivered to your inbox.)


California officials on Monday called on residents to remain vigilant about wearing masks and to stay away from friends and relatives, as encouraging news spread about Pfizer’s vaccination work and the election of Mr Biden announcing changes in the country’s response to Covid-19.

“Please let us double the work we have done,” Newsom said on Monday. “I don’t try to deprive myself of enthusiasm, I try to be honest and frank.”

Speaking for the first time since the election was called, Mr Newsom’s tone was a mixture of optimism and apprehension.

[Track coronavirus case numbers by California county.]

The number of cases, he said, had started to increase statewide, as had hospitalizations. Although testing has ramped up, reaching nearly 190,000 reported tests in the past day, the state’s average positivity rate over the past two weeks had jumped to 3.7% after hitting a low of 2.5% at the start of last month.

Cold weather has arrived in some areas and the holidays continue to approach, which officials fear will lead to more in-person meetings indoors. Counties in the state would likely be moved to more restrictive reopening levels this week.

[Read more about California’s tiered reopening plan.]

Still, Mr Newsom praised California’s response and said that while he looked forward to working ‘hand in hand’ with a Biden administration on the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine, the state was suing. its independent review of vaccine safety.

Earlier today, Biden announced he had enlisted a team of health experts, including three from the University of California at San Francisco, to help guide his Covid-19 response – a decision Mr Newsom celebrated as proof of California’s depth. pool of renowned scientists and researchers.

But he stressed that figuring out who should receive what should be extremely limited doses of a vaccine will always be difficult and nuanced work that requires an understanding of California’s specific underserved communities.

“We have millions of healthcare workers in California,” he said. California’s share of the first doses of the vaccine, he said, “may not even cover all health care workers in the state.”

Read more:

  • What is the problem? When can you get one? (Not as soon as you think.) Here are 11 things to know about Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. [The New York Times]

  • Los Angeles County officials have sounded the alarm on rising cases. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • Orange County also faces an increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations. [Voice of OC]

  • San Francisco school board members push for plan that force public schools to reopen by January 25. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

  • Hawaii tries to attract tourists with a new reopening plan. But is it good for the locals? [The New York Times]


And a quick note: Due to an editing error, yesterday’s newsletter distorted one of Senator Kamala Harris’ historic distinctions. She is the first woman of South Asian descent to be elected Vice President, not the first South American. (Thanks to all of our close readers for sending emails.)


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. PT on weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Have you received this email? Sign up for California Today here and read each edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from UC Berkeley, and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles – but she always wants to see more. Follow us here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UC Berkeley.

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