Who Will Replace Kamala Harris As U.S. Senator?

Sen. Kamala Harris suspends her presidential campaign
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (via campaign Instagram)

With Joe Biden and Kamala Harris projected to be the next President and Vice President of the U.S., many are looking to who might be tapped by California Gov. Gavin Newsom to take Sen. Harris’s seat in the U.S.Senate.

Politico reports that those inside Newsom’s inner circle say he would like to make a historic choice, and there are multiple contenders being mentioned who could become the first openly LGBTQ senator from the Golden State.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party, is reportedly on the shortlist of those being considered for the Senate seat. Garcia would be the first openly gay and first Latino senator from California.

In a recent poll by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute, Garcia received the highest response (57%) when voters were asked about individual possible candidates.

According to that survey, almost half of voters (48%) would prefer someone without experience in Washington, D.C., or in Sacramento. Thirty-one percent said they would like to see Newsom pick the state’s first Latino U.S. senator and 24% hoped for the state’s first LGBTQ U.S. Senator.

The first woman and openly LGBTQ person to lead the state Senate, State Senate pro Tempore Toni Atkins of San Diego, is also among those being floated to be the next senator from California. In the aforementioned survey, Atkins received 40% support.

The Victory Fund, which supports more representation of queer Americans in public office, adds to those possibilities California Assemblymember Evan Low, U.S. Representative Mark Takano, and California Senator Scott Wiener.

Newsom could still make history with a non-LGBTQ choice like Secretary of State Alex Padilla or state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Either would be the first Latino senator in California history, plus choosing a statewide officer for the seat would allow the governor to name both the next senator and a powerful state officeholder’s replacement as well.

Many in political circles say the replacement should, like Harris, be a woman of color making Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) of Los Angeles a strong contender. Bass was long reported as a possible choice for running mate for Biden and garnered 53% support in the Schwarzenegger Institute poll.

Also in the mix are Rep. Barbara Lee from Oakland who had 51% approval in the Institute’s survey,  and freshman Rep. Katie Porter, who has shown to have strong support among younger voters.

One small snag for Porter could be that she’s the first Democrat to represent California’s 45th District. A traditionally red district, if she were to take Harris’s seat, her House seat could possibly flip back to Republican.

Newsom has told the press he won’t begin the formal process of vetting candidates until after the election results were certified.

(source: Politico, Schwarzenegger Institute)