Talk of Harris successor sets off California guessing game

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FILE - In this June 17, 2020, file photo, Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. The potential ascendancy of Sen. Kamala Harris to the vice presidency next year has kicked off widespread speculation about who might replace her if Democrats seize the White House. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is already being lobbied by hopefuls and numerous names are emerging in the early speculation. Bass, who was on Joe Biden's vice presidential short list, would likely get consideration. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool Photo via AP, File)

LOS ANGELES – The possible election of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as vice president has set off a fierce competition in California to replace her, with contenders already pressuring Gov. Gavin Newsom for what could be a once-in-a-lifetime appointment.

Joe Biden tapped Harris this week to join him on the Democratic presidential ticket. Should they win in November, it would fall to the Democratic governor to appoint Harris’ replacement for a term that runs through January 2023. Newsom said Wednesday aspiring candidates are already needling him about the potential vacancy.

For Newsom, the list of choices is long and the political risks many, especially with a national reckoning on racial injustice underway. Theoretically, Newsom could even select himself.

“It’s an earthquake kind of appointment,” said longtime Democratic National Committee member Bob Mulholland.

In making a selection, Newsom would face considerations from gender to geography to demographics.

There would be pressure to select a woman, especially a Black woman, to replace Harris, who is the first Black woman to run on a major party’s presidential ticket. She’s one of just two Black women who have ever served in the Senate, and the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India.

Rep. Karen Bass, who was on Biden’s vice presidential short list and heads the Congressional Black Caucus, would likely get consideration, along with Rep. Barbara Lee, another Black member of Congress with progressive credentials.

Rep. Katie Porter of Orange County has established a national reputation in her short time in Washington and is a prolific fundraiser. Then there is Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who served as ambassador to Hungary under President Barack Obama.