In a past column, I noted that Gov. Newsom is either in an enviable or precarious political position. That being the opportunity to appoint the replacement for Vice President Kamala Harris’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. Needless to the say the state and national political diaspora had this appointment on their radars and in their sights ever since Harris was nominated for VP.
The African American political sphere demanded the governor appoint an African American woman because Kamala Harris was the only one and second ever to be elected to the U.S. Senate (Carol Moseley Braun from Illinois was the first). In the balance was if Newsom had presidential aspirations, the African American vote had just delivered the Democratic Party nomination, then the presidency to Joe Biden. So their approval or opposition would be pivotal on the national scene.
The Latinx political community demanded that the Guv appoint a Latinx to the vacancy. That person would be the first ever to serve in the U.S. Senate from California. Such an appointment would pretty much guarantee Newsom’s re-election and a successful defeat of any recall effort.
The Asian Pacific Islander world of political influence politely raised their hand to remind the governor that ex-State Treasurer and Controller John Chiang was available. But all knew the old historical and racist saying “a Chinaman’s chance” still applied.
After much hand-wringing and political consternation the governor appointed California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. An excellent selection but it put into motion the loud opposition from the national African American political apparatus (elected officials, political pundits/talking heads and influencers). But in a savvy political move, at the same time the Guv appointed Padilla, he also appointed Assemblywoman Dr. Shirley Weber to the now vacant secretary of state position.
Dr. Weber, the most respected African American member of the State Legislature, would now be the first-ever African American woman to serve as secretary of state in California history. Any loud Black political disappointment was now blunted by the political jujitsu that the governor used in this double political move. Most everyone on the Cali political scene just said “d**n,” well played.
Now, with California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra being confirmed as President Biden’s secretary for health and human services, another political vacancy is open. Learning from all that has taken place and how fast it can happen, the California API political world had already put into motion API candidates as possible appointees.
Congressman Ted Lieu, a past military JAG (judge advocate general – military lawyer), was mentioned. Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and David Chiu, both attorneys, were put on the list, but to prove how serious this effort was, Assemblymember Chiu graciously bowed out to clear the field for Bonta.
Then in a weird political perfect storm, the explosion of media and social commentary surrounding the anti-Asian hate issue thrust these relatively quiet political maneuverings into the glare of the moment at hand. Amongst other more noted politicians like Congressman Adam Schiff or Sacramento Mayor Daryl Steinberg, Assemblyman Rob Bonta was appointed the first Filipino American attorney general for the State of California on March 24, 2021.
With appointing Alex Padilla the first-ever Latinx U.S. senator from the State of California. By nominating Dr. Shirley Weber as the first-ever African American to the position of secretary of state for California. Now appointing Assemblyman Rob Bonta as the first API and Filipino American as California’s attorney general (note, both Weber and Bonta must be confirmed by the State Legislature). The governor has hit what amounts to a political TRIFECTA!
My last point is that all of these appointments not only solved the governor’s political “Gordian Knot” but all will keep him relatively politically clean. All of these political appointees must get elected by the voters in the upcoming statewide elections on their own merits.
My last political aside: another two possible situations, one likely and one not, are on the horizon. One is the governor’s recall election and the other is if U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein retires before her term ends, it will again put into motion the appointment process. The governor has already said he’d appoint an African American woman should that come to pass and there may be a recall election but Newsom wins!
Warren Furutani has served on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, on the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees, and in the California State Assembly. He is a senior advisor to Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de Leon. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.