Monday, December 12, 2022







Unless something serious happens soon to five-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the politics of 2023 in California shapes up as a time of careful positioning by a horde of fellow Democrats angling for the 89-year-old Feinstein’s job.


If he likes, Gov. Gavin Newsom can control this scene. He has reportedly told President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris he will not run against either in 2024.


That makes Newsom seem prepared for at least five years of waiting, something he did very well while serving as lieutenant governor for the eight years of Jerry Brown’s final two terms as governor.


Being the state’s nominal No. 2 gave Newsom some visibility while he awaited Brown’s departure, after which he easily whipped all rivals in both major parties when he finally got to run for Brown’s office.


        But what happens next for Newsom if he doesn’t run for president in 2024, as he’s apparently promised the two most likely Democratic candidates for this country’s top political job?


        Whether Biden or Harris or a Republican like ex-

President Donald Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis

wins the presidency next time out, Newsom could face

serious down time, especially while termed out as

governor from 2026 through early 2028, thus losing

the political limelight – unless he goes after Feinstein’s

Senate seat.


        With all his likely 2028 Democratic presidential rivals already

holding offices of their own, Newsom would need a

constant spotlight to remain a leading candidate while

out of office.


     This is something Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president

for four years, faces right now, along with former Secretary

of State Mike Pompeo and other Republicans who plainly

want to be president, but for now are settling for writing

books and hoping Trump and DeSantis somehow self

destruct before 2024.


For sure, Trump has the potential to wreck himself. He

lately has possessed something like political Velcro, rather than Teflon, as just about everything sticks to him.


But Biden appears unlikely to self-immolate. His

gaffes are invariably forgiven by media and voters, possibly because of a lifelong history of malaprops.


        So Newsom will have to decide, if he really sits out

2024, what he’ll do to set himself up as the Democratic

frontrunner for 2028, his seeming target year.


Yes, he could write a book, but it probably could only

be about his California experiences, since unlike Pence and Pompeo, he’s never held high federal office.


This could make a Senate run the answer for Newsom. If he chooses that, he can expect plenty of competition in his own party. Start with Burbank Congressman Adam Schiff, who became prominent while ramrodding both impeachments of Trump. Republican leaders in Congress now are helping keep a spotlight on Schiff even as he moves into the minority, intending to take away his seat on the House Intelligence Committee.


        Schiff has major senatorial support among California Democrats, but has never run statewide. So there’s room for other contenders like Xavier Becerra, the current secretary of Health and Human Services who twice won election as California’s attorney general after a long career in Congress.


        Orange County Congresswoman Katie Porter, who barely won reelection last fall in a redrawn district, might figure she has a better shot at the Senate than winning reelection repeatedly in her now-largely-Republican part of the OC.


        There’s also Shirley Weber, to whom Newsom tossed the bone of the secretary of state’s office in 2021, when he named Alex Padilla to the Senate seat Harris once held. Weber and some other black women were offended when the Harris seat did not go to another black woman, and she might seek to remedy that with her own run for Feinstein’s spot. There are also San Francisco Bay area Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna, both with longtime delusions of grandeur.


And there are mayors like Eric Garcetti, for 10 years the top official in Los Angeles, and London Breed of San Francisco.


        It’s doubtful any of the others can best Newsom in a primary election, no matter what they now think. Which means in next year’s tussle, the governor can call most of the shots – if he chooses.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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