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Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category



PPIC: Obama, Brown, Immigration Popular in CA

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

chicken31-300x217After the November election, when some partisan and media hysterics were running around like chickens with their heads cut off because the Republicans had picked up seats in Congress – as the out-party always does in the sixth year of a presidential term – Calbuzz suggested taking a deep breath.

Obama’s popularity had not plummeted, as quite a few hyperventilating commentators were arguing, it had been, in fact, fairly constant. And lo and behold, a couple of months later we now find not only has Obama’s approval rating edged up to about 50% nationally, but here in California it’s now at 60% — the highest it’s been since July 2013.

obamaratingsgallup

Gallup Poll on Obama

That’s the latest from the Public Policy Institute of California, who reports that Obama’s “approval has increased 11 points since October 2014 (49%), and is also higher than last January (53%). .  . In our survey, 50 percent of likely voters approve and 48 percent disapprove of the president.

obamaratings

PPIC on Obama and Congress

“His approval rating is 80 percent among Democrats, 50 percent among independents, and 13 percent among Republicans. Majorities of men (62%) and women (58%), as well as Californians across age and education groups approve of the president. An overwhelming majority of Latinos (75%) approve of the president, compared to 42 percent of whites.”

Guts Rewarded Part of this, we suspect, is that people like it when Obama takes decisive executive action (like on immigration) and when he stops allowing himself to be whipsawed by false hopes that the Republicans in Congress ever will compromise with him. The GOP’s intention has been and will continue to be to block him from achieving anything legislatively, so he might as well lay out proposals on taxes, college tuition, trade and foreign policy and let the Republicans take the unpopular side on every issue.

As PPIC noted, “When asked about President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, a solid majority (69%) of Californians say they support it, while 30 percent say they oppose it. Californians in our survey are much more likely to support executive action on immigration than adults nationwide (52% support, 44% oppose), according to the results of a December ABC News/Washington Post poll.”

If your opponents believe compromise is capitulation, then there is no common ground. So stop with the kissy face look, plant your feet and make the other guys take stands that will bite them in the ass in 2016. And guess what? People respect you more and your approval rating goes up.

jerrygandalfGandalf’s Big Magic Equally impressive but less remarkable is Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval rating which is now 61%. Said PPIC: “The governor’s approval rating among all adults has increased since December (54%) and is higher than in January 2014 (58%), January 2013 (51%), January 2012 (46%), and January 2011 (41%) when he entered office.

“Today, the governor’s approval rating is 82 percent among Democrats, 56 percent among independents, and 30 percent among Republicans. Majorities across age, education, gender, and income groups approve of Brown. Approval of the governor is higher in the San Francisco Bay Area (69%) than in the Central Valley (61%), the Inland Empire (61%), Orange/San Diego (59%), and Los Angeles (57%). Latinos (64%) are somewhat more likely than whites (56%) to approve of Brown.”

Here’s the most noteworthy change is the attitude of Californians: About six in 10 say the state is moving in the right direction and believe the governor and Legislature “will be able to work together and accomplish a lot in the next year.” That is extraordinary.

When he campaigned for Prop. 30 in 2012, Gov. Brown promised that the tax increases in the plan would be temporary. But PPIC found that “half of Californians (50%) and likely voters (52%) would be in favor of extending them.”

Of course, “There is a wide partisan divide: 66 percent of Democrats favor and 63 percent of Republicans oppose an extension. Independents are divided (49% favor, 45% oppose).” Interestingly, the more conservative residents of Orange and San Diego counties (58%) and the liberal San Francisco Bay Area (55%) are the most likely to be in favor.

That’s a big deal because much of the success of Brown and legislative Democrats in fixing the budget mess (of course, the recovery didn’t hurt either) came about because of the temporary tax increases of Prop. 30; when it expires in a few years, it will be fascinating to see if Californians baffle the Beltway crowd yet again by voting to tax themselves.

PPIC surveyed 1,705 California adult residents January 11–20, 2014, including 1,021 interviewed on landline telephones and 684 interviewed on cell phones. The margin of error is ±3.6 percent at the 95 percent confidence level for the total unweighted sample of 1,705 adults;  ±3.9 percent for  1,377 registered voters and ±4.6 percent 1,011 likely voters.

Why Antonio Villaraigosa Should Run for U.S. Senate

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

antonioAll the gab and gossip among California’s cognoscenti currently focuses on one big question: Is former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio “Tony V” Villaraigosa in or out of the 2016 race for U.S. Senate?

Billionaire hedge-fund enviro-liberal Tom Steyer, after an annoying Hamlet act, bowed out last week and, thanks to the diligent John Hrabe, we also know that Treasurer John Chiang is a no-go.

Sure, there is still a clutch of Democratic members of Congress “seriously considering” the race for Barbara Boxer’s seat.

Xavier Becerra, John Garamendi, Raul Ruiz, Loretta Sanchez, Adam Schiff and Jackie Speier, among others, have all popped up in various stories. But, c’mon, they’re manikins compared to Tony V, and anyway would risk safe House seats for a decidedly far-fetched political proposition.

And with Republican registration at a paltry 28%, chances are slim and slimmer for a serious GOP contender to defeat early front-runner Attorney General Kamala Harris, despite the endearing effort by our pal, and former U.S. Representative, Ernie Konnyu to nominate himself for the fool’s errand.

So: Tony V must suck it up and answer the eternal question first propounded by Calbuzzer Emeritus V.I. Lenin: What is to be done?

Run, Tony, Run: After discussing it with about a dozen California political insiders, several of whom have spoken in detail with Antonio, (boy, do we not miss the grind of doing Actual Reporting for a living) we bet he joins the race fairly soon: “He’s more in than not in,” said one Tony V confidant.

And notwithstanding Willie Brown’s scornfully creepy attempt to keep him out, on behalf of ex-paramour Harris, Villaraigosa should run, for at least three important reasons:

kamalaharris1 – It’s a golden opportunity. By 2018, when there may be one or two more big openings (for governor and, possibly, for Senate, should ageless wonder Dianne Feinstein opt out), Tony V will have been out of office and largely invisible for five years – an eternity in political time. Even if he doesn’t triumph in 2016 – and he could – he would win by losing, in keeping his name out there, which would serve him well two years hence.

2 – California deserves a competitive race. Harris shouldn’t have the seat handed to her: that wouldn’t be good for voters – or for Harris. There hasn’t been a robust debate on national issues, like the economy, environment, education, national security, social justice and foreign policy, for starters, since Feinstein and Boxer first captured the state’s Senate seats in 1992.

3 – Calbuzz needs a story. Fair warning: If Villaraigosa doesn’t get in and stir up a real contest, we’re gonna’ have to return to the arduous task of elevating our short game.

Secret memo to Willie: it’s not 1990 anymore: Tony V and his allies ought to be especially motivated by Brown’s aforementioned, arrogant argument (as reported by the SacBee’s hard-charging Chris Cadelago) that Villaraigosa should defer to Harris:

“His loyalty and his relationship with her should be so valuable, and he should, in my opinion, see it as an opportunity to demonstrate that.”

Seriously? How pompous and presumptuous, even for the unfathomably vain ex-Speaker and S.F. Mayor, can one person be?

“Loyalty is not a one way road show and this potential US Senate campaign is bigger than Antonio,” as Fabian Nunez, another former Speaker and close ally of Villaraigosa’s, put it to Calbuzz.

“I don’t think he or Kamala needs to step aside. They are both solid leaders and provide a real choice for California and its diversity,” he added. “Antonio loves Kamala like a sister, but his commitment to public service and history of accomplishments in California makes him more than a good candidate.”

Dissing Latino Interests. One leading Latino political figure put it less diplomatically: “It’s more than insulting to suggest that the most prominent Latino in California should just step aside because the Bay Area political machine decided that we don’t really matter.”

Villaraigosa is well positioned to run as a business-friendly moderate with a Southern California base, having fought principled battles with the teachers and public employees unions as L.A. mayor, when he also buffed his credentials on the environment and managed complex political coalitions.

He’d be starting from behind, given that Harris is a statewide officeholder with two successful elections and some braggable accomplishments under her Donna Karan belt. Her handlers put stock in a couple of robo polls they’ve had done showing her well ahead. “She’s the real deal and he doesn’t have a lock on any constituency,” a non-aligned pollster told us.

Please keep in mind, however, that the election is in two years, not some special next month. And running from behind is a position Tony V is likely to relish:

“I don’t know a better retail politician,” one Democratic insider enthused to us. “In every competitive race he’s been in, he has been the underdog.”

warrenIn addition to a potential base among Latinos (if he can get them to turn out), he also might have some appeal to certain deep-pocket Democrats. Harris was immediately endorsed by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren – the darling of the Democratic left and the bête noir of Wall Street bankers – whose backing could be flipped as a matter of political ju-jitsu, i.e. Tony V could say to the moneybags, “Who do you want in Washington, another Elizabeth Warren or me?”

DiFi vs Babs. Looked at another way, he could position himself as a grown-up Feinstein type and let Harris run as a Fight, Fight, Fight Boxer clone.

Of course, Harris is the attorney general and a lot of potential corporate Democrats with business before the state may be afraid of opposing her. It’s not an unreasonable fear, given that if she loses for Senate she’s still AG for two years.

But with federal limits on contributions — $2,600 per person – we’d likely see a lot of wealthy Democrats giving to both candidates, arguing that they just want to see a vigorous debate for the sake of the party (not that either camp would be happy about that).

calbuzzartAt this juncture, our Department of Leadership Assessment, King and Queen-Making Division, honestly doesn’t know who’d make a better U.S. Senator. Harris and Villaraigosa both have strengths and weaknesses. (Although the first to sit down with us would improve his or her chances of winning our sympathies, given our widely known reputation as access whores).

In the end, however, the most crucial consideration is that after Obama’s 2012 walkover vs. Romney and Neel Kashkari’s puny 2014 challenge to Governor Brown, we haven’t had a truly memorable race since eMeg v Gandalf in 2010.  Either Antonio runs or it’s back to nap time for us.

Tony V Viable in ’16? DiFi a Slam Dunk for ’18 Exit?

Monday, January 19th, 2015

antonionewyorkerCalifornia Attorney General Kamala Harris is, for now, the leading candidate to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. Environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer, by dint of his money, is her strongest potential challenger.

(Update: On Thursday, Steyer announced on Huffington Post, that he will not run for Senate in 2016 and  will instead work to elect a Democratic president and to advance the fight against climate change.)

But one other Democrat – despite plenty of personal and political baggage – has the potential to upend the dynamics of the race: former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (formerly Tony Villar or Tony V in Calbuzz parlance).

If – and this is huge – he can find a way to scoop up fund-raising people who know how to pull together millions under federal limitations, Tony V could make it past the June top-two election and run a competitive race for Senate, especially if Steyer decides not to get in. For one thing, he’d be the only brand-name Latino in a state where that could matter.

Whether Harris will be a formidable candidate in the harsh light of a top-of-the-ticket campaign has yet to be determined. At least two unaligned top political consultants told Calbuzz she could turn out to be a paper tiger. “She’s very full of herself,” said one, “and voters might not like that about her.”

“What evidence is there that’s she a juggernaut? That she barely beat Steve Cooley?” said another, referring to her 2010 election rival. Her 2014 re-election can be dismissed as a walk-over: nobody even remembers who ran against her (hint: the Hobbit, Ron Gold). Moreover, this consultant said, not only is California “overdue to elect a Latino, but “nobody seems to have noticed that there are five million registered voters in L.A. County and 2.5 in the Bay Area.”

L.A. bravado, however, has to be tempered by actual voting history, as our old friend Cathy Decker of the ByGod LA Times explained so well Sunday: Angelenos, especially LA Latinos, have pathetic voter turnout compared to their counterparts in the Bay Area. Whether Tony V could capture the big bloc of L.A. voters (especially if Hillary Clinton is on the ballot for president, drawing women to the polls) is problematic at best.

cranstonBeen a Long Time Coming One thing that renders the Senate race uncertain is that the last time California had an open seat was 23 years ago, when Dianne Feinstein beat Gray Davis in the Democratic primary for the final two years of Senator-cum-Governor Pete Wilson’s seat, and then buried political pygmy John “Sell Your Boat” Seymour, while Barbara Boxer beat Democrats Mel Levine and Leo McCarthy for the open six-year seat that the late Alan Cranston had held.

Californians have not seriously considered what they want from a U.S. Senator in more than two decades, during which the political landscape, especially in terms of gender and race, has shifted substantially. By and large, the dominant Democrats are very comfortable with women, Latinos, blacks, Jews, you name it, in high office. But what kind of senator they want when given an open choice – a deal-maker, a spokesperson, a statesman (or -woman) — is unclear.

Will it matter, for example, that Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker have endorsed Harris? Will her checkered record as District Attorney in San Francisco mean anything in a Senate race? Would Steyer look like an engaged, Cincinnatus-style citizen, or the hedge-fund spawn of Al Checchi and Meg Whitman? Would voters – especially women – care that while Tony V’s wife Cornia was undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, he had an affair with a friend’s wife?

And that’s just a few of the iceberg tips out there. None of these public figures have been scrutinized, op-researched, dissected and pummeled at the level that applies to a U.S. Senate (or governor’s) race. With all the talented and ruthless consultants who will be working the Senate race – many of them FOCs (Friends of Calbuzz) – this will not be a dinner party.

diannecyclops2DiFi Hates Unpleasantness Speaking of dinner parties, one pol who found running in a statewide election with serious opposition incredibly distressing and distasteful is U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who was so traumatized by Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Huffington’s 1994 expensive and nasty campaign against her, she has shied away from hand-to-hand combat ever since, opting out of running for governor twice, when she would have been the favorite, albeit in fiercely competitive fields.

Most folks in the political world are betting that when Feinstein’s seat comes up again in 2018 – at which time she’ll be 85 – the very senior Senator will choose not to run again, and some politicos are already plotting ahead to 2018 as an opportunity for an open Senate seat.

We don’t buy the certainty of her retirement. After all what would DiFi do all day if she weren’t in the Senate, where she’s earnestly devoted to the complexities of huge issues — and commands a queen’s court worth of policy minions, political retainers and personal purse holders?  As long as her health remains good – bum knee aside — we’ll take those long odds and bet on DiFi plugging along in pursuit of Strom Thurmond’s centenary record as the oldest-serving Senator, knowing she’d have no serious (i.e. nasty, well-funded) opposition in California.

Said one plugged-in Senate source: “I don’t think she’s spending a lot of time thinking about” 2018. “She likes working in the Senate and has important responsibilities. I would not be surprised if she ran again.”

Moreover, Democrats have a good chance of winning back the Senate in 2016 as they need defend only 10 seats while Republicans have two dozen of their own seats to hold. So the Senate could be a lot more fun for DiFi in a couple of years, especially if she takes back chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which suits her eyes-only, the-authorities-know-best personality.

All of which means that if Villaraigosa or Steyer wants to run for Senate, 2016 may be their better bet. Moreover, for either of them, running statewide even in a losing campaign is not a bad play if they want to run for governor in 2018, after Jerry Brown is termed out, or – should DiFi actually step down – for Senate.

steyercloseupSteyer Weighing Options Villaraigosa, meanwhile, is reportedly getting some polling done and consulting with California Wise Men (don’t miss Chris Cadelago’s good Sunday piece) and Steyer, according to advisers who spoke to Calbuzz and others, is considering whether a Senate race would help or hinder his No. 1 concern – combating climate change. He’s also expanded on the agenda he says he’d pursue in one, and only one, term in the Senate, outlining tax and education reforms  to his supporters (another h/t to Cadelago).

Some on the environmental left have argued that making himself a singular target, as he would be in a Senate campaign, would personalize and thus undermine his cause. He is a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton and backing her campaign for president, while continuing to invest in measures and candidates against climate change, might be a more productive way forward.

Of course, since the governor of California is vastly more powerful than any single U.S. Senator – a fact well-known to Steyer’s advisers – he likely is calculating whether seeking to become governor would be more advantageous for the fight against climate change. (This, btw, would put our friend Jason Kinney in a pickle since he’s a consultant to both Steyer and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom – a sure-fire candidate for governor in 2018.)

But what about the party of Lincoln? Republicans, meanwhile, with about 29% 28%, steadily sinking statewide registration and a party platform that still opposes abortion, gay marriage and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, are hardly a factor in the 2016 Senate race. Unless an unexpected top-rank candidate should emerge — like former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (who has never been subjected to campaign-level scrutiny).

Former Sen. Jim Brulte visits the Capitol Bureau.We asked California GOP Chairman Jim Brulte if his party would have any credible candidates for Senate in 2016 and he replied “Absolutely.” But when we asked for some examples, he refused to comment, insisting he and his party are concentrating on open California Senate seats – not the 2016 election.

Doubtless, the state GOP is quivering with excitement to know that Phil Wyman of Tehachapi, a former member of the state Senate and Assembly, who won less than 12% of the vote for Attorney General in June 2014, says he’s “strongly considering a run for the U. S. Senate in 2016.” Lock up the kids, Maude.

Back in the real world, which is to say, the world that we live in, Steyer’s advisers (who say they’re really not sure  what he will do) – expect him to make a decision and announcement early this week. Whatever that decision, it will surely have impact on Villaraigosa who – without a political office as a base or vast personal wealth – has a difficult challenge.

While a known figure like Jerry Brown might be able to run a statewide race for $30 million, virtually any one else is looking at three or four times that amount – a huge sum to raise in $1,000 $2,600 federal increments.

For Steyer, this is couch change. Which is both a blessing and — as eMeg et. al. have proved — a curse.

Tom Steyer: Kamala’s Biggest Threat for Senate

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

kamalaharris2A survey of the landscape of the 2016 race to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer reveals that state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who announced on Tuesday that she’s in, is a clear and strong front-runner whose most threatening potential opponent is billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.

True, California voters often have slapped around rich people who have tried to bully their way into the top tier of politics (see Al Checchi, Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Neel Kashkari). But Steyer, who has yet to announce his intentions, for years has been a player in state and national politics.

He used some of the gazillions he made as a hedge fund manager to create NextGen Climate Action, which last year supported climate-change friendly candidates across the nation, albeit with scant success, and also has backed and opposed important California ballot propositions. He served as a delegate to the Democratic National conventions of 2004 and 2008, and has worked or raised money for Walter Mondale, Bill Bradley, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, among others.

So he’s not your run-of-the-mill political dilettante. Hello Michael Huffington.

120905_tom_steyer_ap_328

Consultants, We Got Consultants: Steyer has the sharp-tongued Chris Lehane and the smart and prudent Jason Kinney as consultants, with wily veteran Paul Maslin as a pollster. If he decides to get in against Harris, the June 2016 open primary race will get very expensive and possibly nasty – opening the possibility for a Republican contender to make the top-two runoff in November. On the other hand, Steyer could make a more uncertain play and angle for a shot at Senator Dianne Feinstein’s seat in 2018, assuming The Great Woman steps aside, which is a big assumption.

Harris, meanwhile, has top California strategists Ace Smith, Sean Clegg and Dan Newman, with the dependable David Binder as her pollster. Her kitchen cabinet includes her husband, LA attorney Douglas Emhoff; her sister, Maya Harris of the Ford Foundation and Maya’s husband Tony West, former associate U.S. AG, who now is general counsel at PepsiCo and a very impressive guy. (At least half of us met West when he ran for San Jose City Council back in 1998, but lost because he couldn’t get labor backing; we said at the time that he could be president, if only he could get elected a councilman. But we digress).

Harris has a substantial financial base and considerable electoral chops (she won 67% in LA County in the last AG’s race, fercryinoutloud). She also has some impressive accomplishments, most notably her pivotal role in the National Mortgage Settlement against five banks: AllyWells FargoBank of AmericaCiti Bank, and Chase. After rejecting the initial settlement offer (against the wishes of Dem Party leaders) because it was too low, she won $12 billion of debt reduction for California homeowners and $26 billion overall.

woman boxerWeak Sauces: What Harris didn’t display in her web site announcement, however, was a compelling message that demonstrates she has something unique and important to bring to the Senate. Rather she sounded like Boxer Lite, whose eponymous message has always been that she’s a “fighter.”

Sez Kamala:

I have worked to bring smart, innovative and effective approaches to fighting crime, fighting for consumers and fighting for equal rights for all. I want to be a voice for Californians on these issues and others that impact our state in the U.S. Senate.

I will be a fighter for the next generation on the critical issues facing our country. I will be a fighter for middle class families who are feeling the pinch of stagnant wages and diminishing opportunity,” she added. “I will be a fighter for our children who deserve a world-class education, and for students burdened by predatory lenders and skyrocketing tuition. And I will fight relentlessly to protect our coast, our immigrant communities and our seniors.

Please, wake us when it’s over. She’s gotta do better and she has to get war, peace and national security in the first few lines, too. True, it’s a transition from AG to Senate, but a more powerful opening could have won widespread respect.

Steyer for his part presents as an articulate one-trick pony (how about “a talking horse”? – ed.) To wit, on Tuesday he wrote at Huffington Post:

Washington needs to be shaken up, and we need climate champions who will fight for the next generation. California Democrats are blessed to have a deep bench of talent, and I will decide soon based on what I think is the best way to continue the hard work we’ve already started together to prevent climate disaster and preserve American prosperity.

What about Tony V?  Harris definitely looks much  stronger than – and her camp is far less worried about – former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. His ability to raise funds beyond LA County is questionable, and he left the mayor’s office as damaged goods, not least because of his widely publicized zipper problem.

As for Representative Loretta Sanchez: Oy. Best start working on next year’s Christmas card, girlfriend.

While it’s too early for any bankable public polling in the race, Harris has a private survey from December (obviously she’s been thinking about this for awhile) that her advisers believe shows her an odds-on favorite. Steyer also has polling that, according to a source in his camp, is “encouraging,” in part because his political involvement mitigates against his untested, billionaire profile.

gavin (1)Newsom-Harris Tick Tock: Harris declared her decision to enter the online, 23 hours after Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s made his Facebook announcement Monday morning that he will not run for Senate in 2016 (also: nine days after she was re-sworn as AG…ah, what the hell). The machinations around the dual decision have made for juicy political gossip and multiple incorrect news stories.

After Boxer’s announcement, Newsom was encouraged by several of his allies to run for the seat. After debate and discussions with mentors and advisers (NOT including the Smith-Newman-Clegg SNC Strategies, consultants for both him and Harris), and with three young children and a wife with her own successful career, Prince Gavin chose to stay in California as Lite Gov – most likely preparing a bid for governor in 2018.

Newsom announcing before Harris wasn’t the Machiavellian plot that some political writers have claimed (hello Politico), it was just smart communications strategy. Had he waited until Harris announced for Senate, his decision not to run for the seat would make him look weak, as if he was afraid of running against her. By announcing that he would NOT run, he left the ball in Harris’s court.

Moreover, despite reports to the contrary, Newsom and his advisers reached out to inform Harris and her camp before the announcement, including a phone call from Gavin to Kamala early Sunday evening, when he left a long voice mail.

williebrownWhatever happens, don’t blame us: For the record, Jerry Brown was our longtime pick for the Boxer seat, and there was a fair amount of rending and gnashing around world headquarters here when the governor – exclusively — told Calbuzzer Dan Morain, who labors as SacBee ed page editor and columnist in his spare time, that he wasn’t running.

It also should be noted that we were not the only ones with the blinding insight that Gandalf was the best choice for the state. Two days after we raised the notion, noted political analyst (how about “aged bagman” ?- ed.) Assembly Speaker for Life Willie Brown, whose long list of proteges includes both Newsom and Harris, nominated his cousin Brown for the Senate. In his Hearst Chron column, His Willieness wrote:

The Senate fits his broad intellect, and he’d be 78 when he took office, which wouldn’t even make him the oldest senator from California – Dianne Feinstein will be 83.

Sometimes, great minds really do think alike. Some faster than others.

Why the Governor Should Run for Boxer’s Seat

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Boxer-retireTo the surprise of no one, septuagenarian U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer confirmed Thursday (in a cheesy video) that she will not seek re-election in two years, offering California Democrats a terrific opportunity to send their best possible successor to Washington: Jerry Brown.

Sure, Governor Gandalf at 76 is even older than the retiring Babs, but his good genes (remember Aunt Connie?) plus good exercise and diet habits, would make the age issue a non-starter for him.

More importantly, his singular political skills, encyclopedic policy knowledge and commitment to the overarching importance of addressing climate change in a serious way put him bald head and shoulders above the potential field of careerist mediocrities otherwise lusting for Boxer’s seat.

Instead of just four more years of Jerry Brown, California might get another 10 or more.

While Boxer has served as a fierce advocate for women, the environment and progressive causes, Brown has actually governed – a skill that could be put to good use in Washington when the Democrats, after 2016, will most likely control the White House and have retaken the Senate.

gavinkamalaAs for Prince Gavin and Queen Kamala, here’s how the deal could go down: Two years into his term, Brown hands off the keys to the horseshoe to 47-year old Lieutenant Governor Newsom (who would get the benefit of two years of on-the-job training before seeking the post on his own) while 50-year old Attorney General Harris would be the odds-on favorite to replace (by then) 85-year-old Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Everybody’s a winner!

As for the rest of the lean and hungry crowd — ex-L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, billionaire enviro Tom Steyer, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Treasurer John Chiang, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, and any other ambitious types– would just have to stand down if Jerry goes for Senate. Key reason: they’d get creamed.

jerrygandalfIn the interest of full disclosure: Calbuzz has no, what you might call, Actual Facts, let alone Real Evidence, suggesting that Brown would even contemplate such a move.

However, key sources close to our imagination suggest he shouldn’t dismiss the possibility out of hand, for at least three reasons:

1) Having just been re-elected, he’d have a free ride to go for Senate in 2016;

2) Borrr-dom. Brown already straightened out the mess in Sacramento, as the new/old sheriff in town and, at this point, can handle his duties there with one hand affixed to his lumbar sacrum;

3) Having accomplished the Freudian karmic task of surpassing his late father, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, for longevity as governor, he can now set about avenging the one and only political loss of his life, his defeat to Pete Wilson in the 1982 Senate race.

There are, to be sure, certain uncertainties with the bold Calbuzz plan.

BBonboxOthers in history who have tried tricky Governor-Senate tradeoff moves have wished they hadn’t – hello Bill Knowland! And Harris would be taking the biggest political chance in betting on Difi to exit the Capitol Hill premises four years hence, when Herself might decide she wants to break Cornelius Cole’s record as the oldest Senator in the history of the nation.

But if Brown decides to go, she wouldn’t have much choice.

Bottom line: Let’s be blunt: after 34 years in Congress, Boxer will probably be best remembered for a $600 toilet seat. Clearly, we credit her for being a passionate, consistent and voluble voice for women’s issues and the environment. And whenever a spokesperson for a progressive cause was needed, the diminutive Boxer could be counted to stand on her literal little soapbox and make an articulate case.

But she will not – despite the accomplishments she claims – be remembered like Alan Cranston as an accomplished lawmaker, any more than Pete Wilson or John Tunney.

Brown would be a different kind of advocate – controversial by dint of his argumentative skills, iconoclastic personality and over-weaning overweening intellect. What kind of grade he’d get on “plays well with others” is less certain.

But it would surely be worth the price of admission. Run Jerry Run!