California Gov. Gavin Newsom has a perfect storm of political opportunity now that Xavier Becerra’s departure gives him the chance to fill a third high-profile statewide office and shape the state’s power structure for years.
Ambitious Democrats and their constituencies were already lobbying the governor for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ Senate seat, and now Newsom will also select the next state attorney general to replace Becerra. If Newsom chooses odds-on favorite Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill Harris’ seat, the governor would have the exceptionally rare power to name three people to coveted statewide posts within weeks, potentially cementing a decade of governance in an overwhelmingly Democratic state.
The surfeit of opportunity has intensified already-fierce jockeying among California elected officials vying for Newsom’s blessing, adding more variables to a calculus that factors in loyalty, experience and representation. But Newsom having yet another seat to bestow gives him wider latitude to mollify different factions who are imploring him — increasingly with public campaigns — to select a Latino, a Black woman or someone who otherwise represents California’s diversity.