California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer's retirement announcement Thursday has sparked intense speculation about who might run to replace her in what will likely be the most expensive Senate race in history.
"It will be a very expensive race and it will be a crowded field," former California Democratic Rep. George Miller, a close friend of Boxer's, told The Hill
. "There will be a lot of really talented people who will be vying for this seat."
California Attorney General Kamala Harris and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are two Democrats whose names are being touted as the top possible contenders, though it is unlikely that the two would go head to head, with Harris having the right of first refusal, according to The Hill.
"I do not think Newsom would run against Harris and vice versa. I think they'll sit down and discuss how not to.
"They have great admiration for each other politically and they'll work it out," Joe Cotchett, a top northern California Democratic donor, told The Hill.
Billionaire climate change activist Tom Steyer is also seen as a possibility. He spent over $70 million in the 2014 midterm elections to back "green candidates"
and would have the advantage of self-funding.
The possibilities on the Republican side still remain clear, but regardless, the prospects of a GOP candidate winning a statewide seat are dim. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
has already ruled herself out, and sources close to California Rep. Darrell Issa also say he is not interested in pursuing the seat.
"Whoever takes the plunge will need lots of cash. California has long been one of the most expensive states in the nation to campaign in due to its huge population and multiple media markets, and political campaigns' prices have risen exponentially in recent years with the advent of super-PACs," The Hill said.
In addition, campaign funds are crucial if candidates are to succeed in California's "jungle" primary, a system which advances the two candidates who get the most votes in the election, regardless of party.
"That's one thing the new primary system has brought us — an incredible extra expenditure of money, which is unfortunate," Miller told The Hill.
Strategists estimate the race could cost $1 billion, The Hill reported, but The Washington Post
floated the figure of $100 million.
Boxer began her congressional career in the House in 1983, and took up her seat in the Senate 10 years later. She was an early pioneer for women in Congress, and championed women's issues from her earliest days in the Senate.
"It's hard to think of another member of the Senate who is as strong an advocate for women's rights, at so many different levels. On the issue of choice, she is the first up and the leader of the battle," Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, one of Boxer’s closest friends who entered the House with her in 1983, told the Post.
The 74-year-old announced that she would not seek re-election in 2016 in a video message with her grandson, Zach Rodham, nephew of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She said that one of her last goals was to make sure a "progressive" replaces her, and hinted she would throw her full weight behind a Clinton candidacy for president, the Post reported.
With the new Republican majority, Boxer has been forced to step down as chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee that oversees climate policy and highway funding. She was also chair of the Ethics Committee for the last eight years.
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