Gavin Newsom

Adam Schiff will not become California’s next attorney general

Schiff was angling for the job with the blessing of powerful Democrats in Washington

Adam Schiff had aggressively lobbied Newsom to appoint him to the role


Gov. Gavin Newsom has decided against appointing the Los Angeles area congressman to lead the state’s law enforcement agency, a post recently vacated by Xavier Becerra when he was confirmed to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. It is not yet known whom Newsom has chosen for the AG role, though a formal announcement is expected soon.

Schiff was angling for the job with the blessing of powerful Democrats in Washington, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. A Harvard Law School graduate and former prosecutor who serves as the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff had aggressively lobbied Newsom to appoint him to the role, which in the past has been a stepping stone for the governorship or U.S. Senate.

Newsom, who is facing the threat of a recall over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, has spent months mostly keeping his own counsel on filling the AG job. He’s run much of his own reviews of potential candidates and kept the fierce outside lobbying at bay, according to aides and advisers to the governor and top contenders.

Others believed to be in the running include California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu, who was previously married to Newsom’s former Chief of Staff Ann O’Leary; and state Assemblymember Rob Bonta, the first Filipino American lawmaker and the child of farm worker organizers in the Central Valley who went on to earn his law degree from Yale.

Leaders in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community recently renewed their push for Liu and Bonta as hate crimes became a major national concern, especially after last week's Atlanta shootings.

Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California; Rep. Ted Lieu, and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen were also talked up at various times for the job. POLITICO on Tuesday reported that Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, a former state Senate president, was informed he would not be the AG pick.

Zbur was also told he will not get the AG job, a source with knowledge of the conversation told POLITICO on Wednesday. State Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), who was backed by fellow state lawmakers and Latino advocates, also learned she will not be nominated, sources told POLITICO.

The case for Schiff was that he is a national figure with a frequent TV presence and a record as a powerhouse fundraiser. But people around the governor always considered him a long shot for the AG gig.

“The thing with Gavin is that Nancy [Pelosi] is probably the most important political person in his life,” said one Newsom confidante. “She was encouraging the Schiff thing. But it just was never going to happen. They were never close, he and Schiff. We never sat down with him when we were in D.C.”

While Schiff’s public presence has lessened considerably in recent months following the conclusion of the Russia investigation and first impeachment trial of then President Donald Trump, he has often been mentioned as a potential candidate for House Speaker (or Democratic leader) when Pelosi leaves, or as a California senator when a vacancy opens up. Newsom appointed Alex Padilla last month to fill Vice President Kamala Harris’ senate seat.

Newsom declared during an MSNBC interview earlier this month that he would name a Black woman to fill Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat should she retire before her term ends in 2024 and should Newsom remain in office by then. That proclamation seemingly closed off that avenue for Schiff.

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