With Congressman George Miller announcing a surprise retirement after 40-years, Democrats are jockeying for position in not only Millers seat, but also for several other seats which could be in play as the dominoes will fall by the end of the year.
Currently, there are several elected leaders who have been linked to the Miller Congressional seat which include:
- Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla – rumored
- Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan – rumored
- Senator Mark DeSaulnier – announced
- Congressman John Garamendi – rumored
- Supervisor John Gioia – rumored
- Supervisor Mary Piepho – rumored
- Mayor Kristina Lawson (Walnut Creek) – rumored
Termed out State Senator Mark DeSaulnier jumped at the chance to immediately announce he would run for the Congressional seat. He was the first to announce and over the last 48-hours, he has announced endorsements from Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and John Gioia, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisor.
With Supervisor Gioia providing an endorsement for DeSaulnier, that takes him out of the race.
Prior to the endorsement being announced, Gioia told me yesterday that he is enjoying working at the county level and he looks forward to running for re-election for supervisor this June.
You can also count Supervisor Mary Piepho out of the race as she shared with me yesterday she hasn’t given it much thought until the news broke Monday. Ultimately, she prefers to stay local.
“It’s important to give all opportunities consideration. Anyone who is interested in serving in Washington DC, either in senate or congress has to deeply committed to partisan politics and I prefer more individual leadership at the local level,” said Piepho.
Meanwhile, Congressman John Garamendi teased that he would not rule out running for Millers seat—a district he used to represent, but that is highly unlikely.
One name to keep an eye out for on the Miller seat is Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan who has money and will be terming out of the assembly. Miller’s retirement could not come at a better time for Buchanan who is setting up for a showdown against Susan Bonilla for DeSaulnier’s Senate seat.
One major advantage for Buchanan is that she is well funded and in a short campaign, that is gold. She also has name recognition within the District. If anything, a failed run at Congress sets her up for a run for her State Senate. She really has nothing to lose.
In the coming weeks, others are expected to announce as the speculation is put to rest, however, the real fun begins should DeSaulnier win the seat. His senate seat will likely be the race of next year as candidates truly jockey for that post.
That senate seat could set up a shift within Contra Costa County with folks vying for a Senate run and could create a much larger field than the Congressional seat.
The variable in all this is will a Republican even enter the field or be relevant in any of the outcomes. We know Bonilla and Buchanan have their eyes set on the Senate while Gioia may be interested at that point depending on his Supervisor outcome, but could a republican pull of an upset in a field of democrats who may split the votes?
Supervisor Mary Piepho comes to mind as the strongest Republican for a Senate run to replace DeSaulnier.
At this time, Piepho admitted she is not ruling out running for the seat her father once held, but admitted that discussion is for another day. For now, she appears content on serving on local politics at this point in her career.
The reality is that in a democrat heavy region such as Contra Costa County, depending on the amount of democrats running, that could allow for a Republican to win the primary but would likely result in a loss in the general election.
As you can see, by one person announcing retirement after 40-years of service, a game of musical chairs began.
Unfortunately for republicans, they appear to be on the sidelines watching because they have not used their time wisely in building up a strong bench of candidates to pick from.
Only time will tell which Democrats are successful in finding their seat when the music runs out.
By Michael Burkholder
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