An Open Senate Seat in California?

It’s gotten to where it is difficult to for California Democrats to imagine life without Jerry Brown holding the governorship and Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer occupying the two Senate seats. After all, the only Democrat to hold the governor’s office between Brown’s two widely separated two-term tenures was the ultimately very disposable Gray Davis. And Boxer and Feinstein have exercised their duopoly since 1992.

As Politico’s Alex Isenstadt explains today, however, word is spreading that Boxer is probably going to hang it up when her current term expires in 2016. And that’s fueling speculation among the growing number of frustrated Democratic pols who have been waiting to “move up.”

Most of the attention…is expected to center on a pair of rising stars: state Attorney General Kamala Harris, 50, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, 47, both Democrats. For years, politicos have buzzed about a potential showdown between the two. Both hail from Northern California and rose through the ranks at the same time. They even share the same campaign consultant: Averell “Ace” Smith, a longtime Hillary Clinton adviser and top political hand in the state. In November, Harris and Newsom were easily reelected.

But as anticipation of a Boxer retirement has grown, the two have gone out of their way in recent months to tamp down talk of a rivalry. In September, they held their first-ever joint fundraiser at a San Francisco restaurant, where they lavished praise on each other.

Since Newsom has been making the most noise about succeeding Brown, Harris might have a shorter track to a Senate seat, but then southern California pols, including current and past Los Angeles Mayors Eric Garcetti and Antonio Villaraigossa, may challenge the Bay Area monopoly on the state’s top political spots. So far there are no signs Republicans will regain a competitive statewide position by 2016 or 2018, but anything’s possible.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.