Is There a Changing of the Guard for California's Political Landscape?

Is There a Changing of the Guard for California's Political Landscape?

California politics are about to undergo a huge transformation, as new political talent is emerging and finally taking center stage over the usual suspects who have dominated the political scene for the last few decades.

According to Politico, so far the 21st century has looked a lot like the 20th century when it comes to California politicians. Jerry Brown, California’s 76-year-old governor, is seeking reelection to a post he first won in 1974, and the two senators, 71-year-old Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, 81, have been ruling the roost since the Clinton administration.

Democratic consultant Garry South called it “ironic” that in a state “viewed as a hip trendsetter for the rest of the nation, we’ve got this cast of septuagenarians and octogenarians.” He points out that, “even Catholic bishops have to retire at 75… We’ve got such an aging leadership in our party, when there’s so much bright young talent on our bench. It’s only a matter of time before the torch is passed.”

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, a 43-year-old Democrat claims, “We’ve had great leadership in Washington and also in Sacramento lately. But look to the next eight, 10 years — it’s going to be a generational shift. The Gen X-ers are going to take over in California.”

So, who are the Gen X-ers that California Dems and the GOP are going to pass the torch to? According to Politico, the group will include Attorney General Kamala Harris (49), Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (46), former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (61) and his recently elected successor, 43-year-old Eric Garcetti.

Other names on the list of future California earth shakers are Silicon Valley lawyer Ro Khanna, who is running against veteran Democratic Rep. Mike Honda, and Neel Kashkari, a former TARP administrator and Treasury official under George W. Bush. Politico says that Kashkari is highlighting his relative youth as a contrast to Brown’s age and his “1970s” ideas.

Significantly, Kashkari points out that “In this race, me versus Jerry Brown, the Republican is 40-years-old, a brown guy, a son of immigrants. The Democrat is the old white guy [who] inherited millions of dollars from his rich, powerful father.”

The 37-year-old Khanna is somewhat kinder about emphasizing his youth compared to his opponent, 73-year-old Mike Honda, for the Silicon Valley congressional seat. “I honestly don’t think age should be a factor in any election,” he said. “What’s relevant is, are the ideas new and innovative to address California’s economy. The campaign really is about the different approach in terms of ideas.”

With all this being said, nevertheless, it may be some time before new faces adorn the California political landscape. Jerry Brown is a prohibitive favorite to remain as California’s Governor in November, and according to Kyle Kondik, a congressional elections expert at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, Khanna has “a remarkable amount of work to do if he wants to win this race… Has he gotten a ton of traction? I would say no.”