Khanna floats Lee for U.S. Senate: A look at the political earthquake that would hit the East Bay

CONGRESS
Before Rep. Ro Khanna dropped fellow Alameda County Rep. Barbara Lee‘s name today as a possible progressive challenge to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who announced Monday that she is running for re-election next year, the idea of such a run was mostly the dreams of her uber progressive constituents in the East Bay.

In fact, on several occasions over the past few months, Lee has been asked (other times begged) during town halls whether she would run for U.S. Senate. In each case she did not answer and laughed off the suggestion.

At the moment, there’s not much to suggest Lee would take up Khanna’s recruitment. Though, it begs the question as to why Khanna would make this type of off-hand remark if it had not been cleared by Lee. Khanna also said he urged Robert Reich to run for U.S. Senate, in comments made to Politico’s Carla Marinucci today. In addition, there’s much to unpack as it pertains to the East Bay by Feinstein’s announcement and the response it could foment.

Let’s start with Khanna. It’s disingenuous of him to highlight Feinstein’s entrenched status and diminishing progressive appeal when he publicly back House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi earlier this spring, who is also under fire for essentially having the entire progressive movement blow past her.

Meanwhile, it’s somewhat telling Khanna floated Lee’s name, but did not mention neighboring Rep. Eric Swalwell, who is already on the short list of potential challengers for Feinstein’s seat. Does that suggest that Swalwell is not progressive? Or does Khanna just figure Swalwell is going to president? Is there some sort of enmity there? If not, there certainly should be, since any success Swalwell achieves will certainly come at Khanna’s expense, or, at least, block the same path toward higher office Khanna may one day seek. In a statement, Swalwell side-stepped a question about whether he would challenge Feinstein, saying he is focused on constituents in his district and the on-going Russia investigation. That means, probably yes, I’m running.

But the real consequence of Khanna mentioning Lee’s name today is the great potential its would have in totally scrambling the political landscape in the East Bay. Recall, a similar round of musical chairs in 1997-1998 that was set off by Ron Dellums‘ retirement from Congress and resulting in Lee taking over his seat. What happened next was a cascading number of special elections, five in total over the next two years, that reshaped the East Bay’s roster of officeholders for a generation.

If you bust out a crystal ball, you can easily see Lee’s departure opening up seats from the 18th Assembly District held by Rob Bonta. the Oakland mayor’s office to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. The ripple effect would open up second-tier candidates in Oakland, San Leandro, Alameda running for the assembly, possibly Oakland City Council seats and the Board of Supervisors. Further down the ballot, there are a vast number of seats that could suddenly open, probably too many to comprehend.

However, even if Lee stays put, this hurricane of political change could instead touchdown just to the south of Oakland. If Swalwell, instead, runs for Feinstein’s seat next year it would create a similar musical chairs in Hayward, Fremont, and the Tri-Valley.

TWO MODEST PROPOSALS
BARBARA LEE runs -> Assemblymember ROB BONTA, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Alameda County Supervisor run for Congress.
1) If BONTA won, Oakland Couniclmembers ABEL GUILLEN, LYNETTE GIBSON MCELHANEY, run for Assembly. So does Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie, among others. A win by any in this group would trigger special elections in their respective cities. So on and so forth….

2) If SCHAAF won, it’s conceivable every single current members of the Oakland City Council would run to finish her term. The list of candidates could be more than a dozen, similar to 2014. A special election win by any member of the Oakland City Council would then trigger a special election for that district seat. So on and so forth…

3) If CARSON won, a number of Berkeley councilmembers could jump for his seat, as could MCELHANEY, along with Emeryville Mayor Dianne Martinez. Once again, this would trigger special elections down the line. So on and so forth.


ERIC SWALWELL runs -> Alameda County Supervisor SCOTT HAGGERTY, State Sen. BOB WIECKOWSKI, former Dublin Mayor TIM SBRANTI, former State Sen. ELLEN CORBETT, and Assemblymember CATHARINE BAKER  run for Congress.

1) If HAGGERTY won, it potentially opens the Board of Supervisors to welcoming a Tri Valley Republican or a moderate from the Fremont area, maybe Mayor LILY MEI and trigger a free-for-all on the City Council vying for finish her term. So on and so forth…

2) If WIECKOWSKI won, many of the same Fremonters would seek to replace him in the state Senate and possibly Assemlymember BILL QUIRK, or someone from the Hayward City Council. The most obvious being Councilmember AL MENDALL, maybe MARK SALINAS, who has shown an interest in higher office. Also, keep in mind the 10th State Senate District also seeps into Santa Clara County. So on and so forth.

3) If SBRANTI or CORBETT won, the aftermath would be, by far, the least messy. Sbranti currently works for Swalwell, so his elevation to Congress would trigger no other moves. Corbett currently serves on the East Bay Regional Parks District board, her long jump to D.C. would require a replacement, but someone unlikely to shake up the political landscape.

4) If BAKER won, first off, it would represent a massive political earthquake in the true blue East Bay, but not entirely impossible since the Tri Valley, which she already represents is moderate to conservative and the Fremont/Tri-Cities area is hinting it could one day become purple. Her replacement, though, would present new possibilities for a group of elected officials in the Tri Valley and Contra Costa County.

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