LOS ANGELES — California Attorney General Kamala Devi Harris —the first woman and the first non-white person to hold that office—will seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Barbara Boxer, an adviser with knowledge of her plans said Monday.
With her formal announcement Tuesday, Harris, 50, would become the first California Democrat to enter the 2016 race expected to lure a crowded field.
The adviser was not authorized to discuss Harris’s plans and spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
Harris, a former two-term San Francisco district attorney, is a personal friend of President Barack Obama and attracted national attention when she helped negotiate a settlement with major mortgage lenders and secured extra funding for California. She has been widely viewed as an eventual candidate for governor or U.S. senator.
The disclosure of her plans came shortly after a potential rival, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, said he would not run for the open seat created by Boxer’s retirement next year.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Tom Steyer, a retired San Francisco hedge fund billionaire who sought to make climate change an issue in the midterm elections, are also considering bids for the seat, which Boxer has held for over two decades. Democrats are well positioned to retain the seat in a state where the party controls every statewide office and both chambers in the Legislature.
As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, Harris has focused her crime-fighting efforts on cross-border gangs that she says are increasingly engaged in high-tech crimes such as digital piracy and computer hacking to target businesses and financial institutions.
In 2010, Harris was elected California attorney general, becoming the first person who was not a white man to hold the office. She is the daughter of an Indian mother and black father, and attended Howard University as an undergraduate.
Newsom, who served eight years as mayor of San Francisco, would have been considered a top contender for the job.
His exit provided encouragement for others contemplating a run for the Senate, and his statement did nothing to dampen the idea he would run for governor in 2018 – when the term of current Gov. Jerry Brown ends.
“I know that my head and my heart, my young family’s future, and our unfinished work all remain firmly in the state of California – not Washington, D.C. Therefore I will not seek election to the U.S. Senate in 2016,” said Newsom, who has three young children.
Newsom launched a brief campaign for governor before dropping out in 2009. He is best known for ordering the San Francisco city clerk in 2004 to ignore state law at the time and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University, said Newsom’s announcement was hardly surprising. He said Newsom has had other opportunities to run for a House seat, but passed.
“He’s an executive branch kind of guy,” Gerston said. “You can expect him to run for governor in 2018 without any question.”
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