California Senator Barbara Boxer might be retiring at the end of her term in 2016. That's not a complete surprise, given that the four-term Senator is 73 years old and has only raised a pittance for the next election. But a seat in the United States Senate is about as rare as a seat as first violin in the San Francisco Symphony—it only comes along once a generation, and when it does, every fiddle player from here to San Diego will be vying for it.
It's easy to play out who the major candidates would be. (We're restricting ourselves to Democrats here, because we live in the reality-based community.) We'll group them into three tiers: Heavyweights, b-listers, and longshots.
The heavyweights: The top tier includes every sitting California member of the House, with the paradoxical exception of a few high-ranking people like Nancy Pelosi, who has likely accrued too much seniority in the other chamber to want to make the switch. Especially obvious are fast-movers like John Garamendi and Karen Bass, both of whom recently jumped from the state government to the federal. You can fill out that bracket with the major political players at the state level, most prominently the LG Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris. The two politicians have been on a slow-moving collision course ever since San Francisco, and a Senate race might be the time for the clash to finally happen—if one of them doesn't agree to bow out in exchange for an endorsement by the other in the next governor's race. Speaking of which, Jerry Brown has always flourished in executive rather than legislative positions, but don't count out the guy who has had every role from Oakland mayor on up. (Plus, we'd love to see what hip loft he would rent on the H Street Corridor in D.C.). Season that with a pinch of mayors, like Sacramento's Kevin Johnson and L.A.'s Eric Garcetti, and you being to see what the field would look like.
The B List: The second group is made up of a lot of very rich people who watched too much West Wing back in the day. California politics is filled with candidates like Al Checchi, Meg Whitman, and Carly Fiorina who figured that fat bankbooks who translate into votes. Often times they are mistaken, but they aren't always wrong. Leland Stanford, for one, got himself a job as a Senator way back in the 19th century. That list includes green crusader Tom Steyer, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, and Ro Khanna, who's probably going to have a lot of time on his hands after this November. (Mark Zuckerberg is still too young, so calm down about that one.) You could also probably throw in any dog-catcher with a pulse, a donor base, and a list of talking points We're looking at you Phil Angelides. There are also some GOP hopefuls who might take a long-shot bid, like Congressman Darrell Issa.
The Longshots: The final group, and in many ways the most entertaining one, are all the wild cards that could show up in a Senate race. Oprah could run! Dave Eggers could too! One of the Castro's Naked Guys! Forget all of that: You could do it! But not just you: Why not the Google Barge? Want to feel sad and ancient? Porn star and recall candidate Mary Carey would be old enough to run for Senate. Come to think of it, Arnold Schwarzenegger probably needs something to do in between cameos in The Expendibles 7 and The Expendibles 8.