By Steven Tavares

The chatter among the political class in the East Bay is vibrating with speculation state Sen. Ellen Corbett’s future past 2014 lies in state-wide office. The discussion was again lit last week when many in Sacramento and locally began to do the political calculations on the assumption Secretary of State Debra Bowen wins the special election for congress down south in the 36th District.

In the recent past, Corbett has not been shy about a desire to move up the political ranks. Many have noted recently a coy wink-and-a-nod from Corbett when asked about the potential opening at the secretary of state’s office after Rep. Jane Harman announced her retirement this month from congress. If Bowen were to defeat a raft of challengers including Janice Hahn, in a possible June special election, Gov. Jerry Brown could appoint a successor to fill out Bowen’s last 3½ years or call for his own special election.

Road maps for candidates seeking different offices often are predicated on timing and luck. Insiders say if Corbett is indeed eyeing the state of secretary job she needs to make her move now. Still, being an appointed incumbent in any election, whenever it occurs, is a huge leg up on the competition and likely would dissuade any potentially strong candidates from challenging her. California’s new open primary system has yet to make its debut, but it might change the political calculus, some say, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party will face-off in the general election. Most also say, though, despite the electoral uncertainty of the new system, the power of the incumbency will still rule the day.

This is not the first time Corbett’s name has been mentioned for another seat other than her state senate position. Last spring, she seriously contemplated leaving the Legislature for what would have been a surefire win at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in District 3. While the seat may seem like a demotion from the state senate, it includes a higher salary in addition to no term limits. Corbett easily won re-election last November to the senate and was named Senate Majority Leader by her party.

Robin Torello of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, told The Citizen she believes Brown would entertain a replacement for secretary of state from a pool of candidates hailing from Southern California since nearly all of the state-wide officers are from the Bay Area or Sacramento.

Regardless of this particular situation, politicians angling for new offices will be a major story in the East Bay over the next year. Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi is termed-out in 2012 and her likely destination would be replacing Corbett in 2014 and leaving her current seat open to a raft of willing prospects. Then, there is always the potentially bloody battle nearly all will wage to replace Rep. Pete Stark, if and when he chooses to retire in 2012 or 2014.