- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 8, 2015

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, announced Thursday she will not seek re-election in 2016, ending a combative career that saw her become one of the country’s chief progressive champions.

Mrs. Boxer’s exit will mark the beginning of a new chapter in California politics, opening up a Senate seat in the state for the first time in 24 years.

“I am never going to retire. The work is too important. But I will not be running for the Senate in 2016,” she said in a YouTube video. “I’m going to continue working on the issues I love.”

The announcement promises to shake up the political landscape in California, where the Hispanic and Asian electorate has ballooned since Mrs. Boxer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat, first took office in 1992.

“It is the end of an era,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy and political science at the University of California.

The careers of two more Democratic icons are also winding down. In 2018 Gov. Jerry Brown will be term-limited out of office, and Mrs. Feinstein would be 85 by then and could reasonably decide not to seek another term,

Whatever the case, Mr. Ramakrishnan said Republicans face an uphill battle winning Mrs. Boxer’s seat, because California has swung more Democratic during her tenure, thanks in large part to the state’s changing demographics.

The 2016 Senate race will be the first for a vacant Senate seat since Hispanics became the single biggest ethnic group in California.

Bruce E. Cain, professor of political science at Stanford University, said the Boxer announcement could open the door for the likes of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to seek the seat.

“This will unleash the pent-up demand in younger generations of politicians in California,” Mr. Cain said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday he will not seek Mrs. Boxer’s seat. Meanwhile, some say Tom Steyer, the investor behind NextGen Climate and a lead bankroller of such green causes as opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, could be enticed into running.

“It is a tough transition to make, and he has been warned about this, but he has been touring the country and working on his public presence, so we will see,” Mr. Cain said. “The California political landscape is strewn with the political corpses of rich, independent candidates who think they have what it takes to handle the rigors and scrutiny of public office and then find out otherwise. And then there are the political consultants who feast on the egos of these people.”

As for Republicans, Mr. Cain raised the prospect of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger running, and said the GOP’s best bet of winning the seat hinges on Democrats cannibalizing each other.

“If the Republicans want a shot, they should clear the field, let the Democratic candidates assemble in a circular firing squad and watch the bodies fall. That will guarantee a Republican in the final election and potentially a divided Democratic Party,” he said.

Others expressed doubt that either Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO who failed to unseat Mrs. Boxer in the 2010 Senate race, or that Meg Whitman, who lost to Mr. Brown in the gubernatorial race in 2010, would run.

Shawn Steel, an RNC member from California, senate-2016-is-charles-munger-jr-the-gops-answer-to-tom-steyer/” target=”_blank”>pointed to an article that cast Charles Munger Jr., vice chairman of the Berkshire Hathaway Corporation, as the GOP’s best bet of flipping the seat.

Linda Ackerman, an RNC member from California, said that Duf Sundheim, a former state GOP chairman, sent out a “notice of interest” in running for the seat, though she said he stopped short of immediately diving into the race.

She also said that Neel Kashkari, who ran against Mr. Brown in the November election, might run, and that people should keep a close eye on U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

“The election is 2016, so that gives him some time to show his leadership skills in the House and, of course, his new position will give him a lot of face time in the media market, so his name ID will certainly be enhanced,” Ms. Ackerman said.

Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of GOP senators, said Mrs. Boxer’s retirement could be the first of many now that Democrats are in the minority.

“Today’s news raises the question whether there will be additional Democrat Senate retirements on the horizon,” said Andrea Bozek, NRSC communications director. “Senate Democrats are already $20 million in debt, and Senator Boxer’s retirement can’t be welcome news for the DSCC, [which] has to defend a costly and hotly contested open seat.”

California has a top-two primary system — which voters approved in 2010 — in which there is a nonpartisan primary and after which all must run, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election.

Late last year, Mrs. Boxer shot down rumors of an impending resignation, calling them bizarre.

But on Thursday she confronted the rumors in the video, which she taped, with her grandson playing the role of a reporter inquiring about her plans, saying she’s had enough and wants to spend more time in California.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a fellow California Democrat, called the announcement “a real loss.”

Mrs. Boxer will finish out her fourth term. She is the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, although, thanks to the GOP’s new majority, she lost the chairmanship this week.

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