Opinion

4 candidates to replace Kamala Harris in the Senate

From Katie Porter to Robert Garcia

Are you there, Gavin? It's me, Catherine.

As the governor of California, you have a big decision to make. You're the one who is going to choose Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' replacement in the Senate, to serve the remainder of her term (and most likely run on their own in 2022). This is your chance to make history, and as a Californian, I want my state to be represented by someone who has integrity, believes in inclusiveness, and is actually competent. That's why I'm here to offer you a few suggestions.

We both know that you're not going to pick a Republican, so I'm not going to offer up any GOP recommendations. But, putting on my PR hat for just a second, if you truly want to make headlines then that is the way to go — just don't expect to be re-elected or able to show your face in San Francisco ever again.

If you want to stay in the good graces of the people who elected you governor, at the top of your list should be Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine). Just re-elected last week to her second term, she is a progressive star, and rightfully so. She comes to congressional hearings beyond prepared and ready to drop facts like a rapper spits rhymes. She stays calm, cool, and collected as she grills CEOs, armed with her trusty white board.

During one moment last month that almost immediately went viral, Porter wrote "$13 million" on the white board, and asked Mark Alles, former CEO of the Celgene pharmaceutical company, what it meant. She quickly started adding more numbers to the board, finally showing that $13 million was his compensation in 2017, 200 times the average income in the U.S. and made possible because the company tripled the cost of cancer medication, for no reason. "The drug didn't get any better," she said. "The cancer patients didn't get any better. You just got better at making money."

Her expert takedowns are not only legendary, but they make a difference, with Porter able to secure free coronavirus testing for all back in the spring. Democrats should relish the idea of her going toe-to-toe with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Another good option is Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, who represents the 37th Congressional District in Los Angeles County. She is head of the Congressional Black Caucus, and has decades of community organizing experience behind her — she is able to build bridges, and proved that while serving in the California state legislature in 2009, when she helped craft a bipartisan budget in the middle of the economic crisis; for this, Bass, along with a few of her colleagues, won the 2010 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Harris was only the second Black woman to ever serve in the U.S. Senate, and there is a strong case to be made that Bass should be the third.

There has yet to be a Latino or Latina senator from California, but that would change if Xavier Becerra, the state attorney general, was chosen. Like Harris, he is the son of immigrants — his parents are from Mexico — and he'd be popular with liberal voters in 2022 thanks to the more than 100 lawsuits he filed against the federal government throughout the Trump administration, challenging attempts to change environmental rules, immigration policy, gun control, and the census.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia already has the Newsom seal of approval, receiving an endorsement when he ran for mayor in 2014. Garcia, 42, has shattered several political ceilings already, as Long Beach's youngest leader, as well as the first Latino and first gay person elected to the position. He has a background that a lot of Californians are familiar with — his mother immigrated to the U.S. from Peru when Garcia was 5 years old, and he chose to become an educator, receiving both his master's degree and Ed.D.

Sadly, Garcia has become more well known nationally due to his mother and stepfather dying of COVID-19 earlier this year. Garcia has appeared on cable news programs to share his story, using it as a lesson to show people why it's so important to wear masks and take the pandemic seriously. His empathy was on full display, despite his grief.

Governor, all the above options have the benefit of consistency, echoing the same traits you recently lauded in Harris: "She's tough, she's passionate, she's persistent, and she's devoted a lifetime to the highest American ideal of justice for all." Let's keep that spirit alive in the next senator we send to D.C.

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