As Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) prepares to be sworn in as vice president in January, there has been widespread speculation over who will fill her Senate seat.
Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint a replacement to serve the rest of Harris’ term, which ends in January 2023. Since the governor won’t call for a special election, the appointee can run for the seat in 2022, unless he or she is only serving in a caretaker capacity.
Many are urging Newsom to name a woman and/or a person of color.
In an interview on Election Day, Newsom said, “This is not something that I wish even on my worst enemy, because you create enemies in this process … not just friends. And it’s a vexing decision. It’s a challenging one.”
In an opinion piece published Nov. 16 in The San Francisco Chronicle, Mike Honda and Madalene Suan-Trang Mielke offered their recommendations. Honda is a former congressman who chaired the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Mielke is president and CEO of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) and chair of ReflectUS.
In the article, titled “Plenty of strong Asian American leaders to succeed Kamala Harris in Senate,” Honda and Mielke said, “The potential candidates mentioned in the media for the upcoming Senate vacancy are all excellent choices — perhaps the most diverse group of individuals that have ever been discussed. Within that group are a number of well-qualified Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) candidates — likely the most ever in the state’s history — who deserve consideration when selecting the next senator from California.”
Their recommendations include:
• State Controller Betty Yee, who previously served on the California Board of Equalization.
• State Treasurer Fiona Ma, who previously served on the Board of Equalization, in the State Assembly and on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
• Former State Treasurer John Chiang, a former candidate for governor. He previously served as state controller and on the Board of Equalization.
• Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. The first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, she previously served as mayor of Monterey Park, in the State Assembly and on the Board of Equalizatin.
• Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Santa Clara), who defeated incumbent Honda in 2016 to represent the 17th Congressional District. He previously served as deputy assistant secretary of commerce under President Obama and co-chaired Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
• Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), who previously served as a California state senator and assemblyman.
• Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), the first openly gay person of Asian descent in Congress. He previously served on the Riverside Community College Board of Trustees.
• Asssemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), who previously served as mayor and councilmember in Campbell. He was a national co-chair of Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign.
• Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), who is mayor-elect of San Diego, where he previously served as a councilmember and interim mayor.
“This is only a sampling of the potential that AAPIs bring in the state,” wrote Honda and Mielke. “As the fastest-growing group in the electorate, the growth of the AAPI population in the state was more than double the growth of the statewide eligible population in the last decade. From 2010 to 2016, the number of eligible AAPI voters grew by 22%, 12% more than the growth rate for the statewide eligible voting population from that same time period. In 2019, AAPIs made up over 16% of the population …
“This is why we are thrilled that Gov. Newsom has the most diverse slate of senatorial candidates to select from, and we are even more proud that AAPIs are ready to serve and represent. Newsom should carry on California’s legacy by nominating a candidate that reflects its people. And in order to do so, we must ensure that there are opportunities for people of color.”
Harris is the second African American woman and first South Asian American to serve in the Senate, and will be the first female, African American and Asian American vice president.
There are two other Asian Americans in the Senate, Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
The first Asian American to represent California in the Senate was Republican S.I. Hayakawa, who served from 1977 to 1983.
Other possible contenders for Harris’ seat include Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Rep. Karen Bass of Los Angeles, Rep. Adam Schiff of Burbank, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins of San Diego, State Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.