The Race for California's U.S. Senate Seat

Posted: Jan 29, 2015 2:21 PM

The rumblings about the race for California's U.S. Senate seat are heating up. 2010 was a welcome attempt for Republicans to unseat incumbent Barbara Boxer, who has enjoyed relatively low approval ratings throughout her tenure. In the two prior contests, Republicans promoted a weak candidate, Matt Fong, in 1998, then a non-starter in 2004, the former Secretary of State Bill Jones, who did not have the money to finance a statewide media campaign.

Carly Fiorina challenged Boxer in a watershed year against Democrats, yet the Republican wave crashed along the Sierra Nevada, and Boxer held her seat with a nine-point lead over Fiorina, whose poor campaigning and flawed resume (a severed CEO from Hewlett-Packard who had laid off thousands) hurt her chances.

In 2016, Boxer will not be running, but already in 2015 Democratic officials are lining up or stepping aside. Attorney General Kamala Harris has announced her intentions for the seat, while a long slew of "Who's Who" in Democratic circles have declined.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has said no, angling for the Governor's seat in 2018, when Governor Jerry Brown has to step down (the term limits will count against him this time). Then again, he may be deflated one more time in his quest for the Presidency, since his resume on paper and in the media suggests a somewhat semblance of governance and authority, with tenable, balanced budgets and a modicum of fiscal prudence. For the progressives lusting for a leftist hardliner, he can appeal to the policies which have turned California into the largest sanctuary state for illegal immigration.

As for the U.S. Senate race, these heavy-duty legislative posts usually draw the most liberal and partisan of candidates. Kammy Harris fits the legal bill perfectly, including her arbitrary discretion not to defend Prop 8, while relenting on the mandated, expedited process for releasing concealed carry permits to California residents. There is plenty in this woman's resume for Republicans to attack, and to galvanize even the most contrarian of Republicans to vote for Anyone But Kammy.

Who is else is running, or interested in running for U.S. Senate in California?

Former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is mulling a bid. He should. He has more executive experience, and federal appeal, since he presided over the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Would Latino voters turn out of him? Reform Democrat Gloria Romero is not thrilled with him, already on board the Krazy Kammy train. He has appealed to California mayors, and the rising Democratic divide between the Bay Area and the South Bay (Los Angeles) is reasserting itself. Congressman Adam Schiff (Glendale) could also carry the banner of the oft-neglected Southern California Democratic delegation, too.

California has seen this North-South Dem fight before. In 1992, Congresswoman Barbara Boxer (Marin County) faced off against Congressman Meldon Levine (South Bay) for the Democratic primary. The Waxman-Berman Machine was blasting at full steam to get their West LA candidate to the US Senate, but Boxer pulled through. She barely defeated Bruce Herschensohn in the 1992 general election.

Twenty-four years later, and the intraparty fighting between North and South is still raging. Latino Democrats continue to get snubbed, and may line up behind Villaraigosa. California Democrats may destroy themselves with their political machines, and therefore give the moribund but slowly reviving California Republican Party a sneaking chance of victory. Republicans have looked over the Congressional delegation, even though Congressman Darrell Issa has already declined. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also said no. Reps Dana Rohrabacher (Surf City) and Tom McClintock (Elk Grove) have not said yes or no., so they may entertain a Senate bid. Former California Republican State Party Chairmen Duff Sundheim and Tom Del Beccaro have announced their interest.

Here is another name that should be considered: Retired Congressman Gary Miller (R-Redlands).

Gary who? And why?

Miller stepped into the California political spotlight early in 2012, when he moved from his former Orange County region to the newly-drawn 31st Congressional district, in the Inland Empire. The new seat registered majority Democrat, but Miller ran anyway. The large number of Democratic candidates running in the seat split up the primary vote, and allowed two Republicans to advance to the general election under the state's new Jungle Primary system. Miller's unique history in California politics goes back further, since his first election to partisan restored Californian Republicans in the State Assembly to the majority in 1995. Today, his novel achievement rests in running for Congress in a majority Democratic district, entering the general election run-off against another Republican, then winning outright in the general, i.e. the Miller Effect.

The former Redlands, CA Congress has overcome controversies and setbacks throughout his career. He is a loyal conservative without a record of conflicts. Surely he could unite California's consensus conservatives and moderates looking for a qualified candidate. If not Miller, why not at least find a way so that two California Republicans can take advantage of a divided Democratic vote in 2016, and get two Republicans into the general election? This is not a far-fetched idea.