On February 8, Jaime Harrison, Chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party and a candidate for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, spoke on the record at an event at the Institute of Politics. As soon as the question-and-answer portion began, he was asked about possible candidates for the 2020 presidential election.
“In the darkest night, you see the brightest stars,” his response began. He continued, saying he expects to see “the most diverse and youngest field that [the Democratic Party] has seen in a long time”. The names that had been bandied about for months were mentioned: New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, California Senator Kamala Harris, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, former Secretary of HUD Julian Castro. Also mentioned? Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat growing in prominence after his pro-gun control “pop-up” filibuster this past summer. California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom was another possible candidate; perhaps, Chairman Harrison said, he could win the governor’s mansion in 2018 and the White House in 2020. Even Jason Kander, former Missouri Secretary of State and 2016 Senate candidate, was brought up. By no means were all possible candidates discussed. Unmentioned by the Chair include Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, businessman Mark Cuban [not joking], and, most glaringly, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (whom Harrison said should not run). But let’s discuss those he did mention.
Former Senate candidate Jason Kander (D-MO)
Had Jason Kander beaten incumbent Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) in November, he would already by the party’s 2020 nominee. A young, charismatic Afghanistan veteran, Jason Kander was elected Missouri’s Secretary of State in 2012. He rose to national prominence this year with an ad in response to attacks that called him weak on gun rights in which he assembled a rifle blindfolded. While Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in Missouri by 18.5 percent, Sen. Blunt only eked out reelection by a 3.2 percent margin. Kander’s current project is a new non-profit, Let America Vote, which advocates for voting rights across the US.
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Senator Booker has been a rising star in the Democratic Party since he won the special election for the seat once held by Frank Lauter, New Jersey’s longest-serving Senator. A strong supporter of President Obama’s 2012 campaign and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, Booker has been looked to as a future candidate for years. He was on Secretary Clinton’s vice presidential short list. Recently, he became the first sitting Senator to testify against a colleague appointed to the cabinet, speaking against former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions’ appointment to the office of Attorney General. However, the Senator is in hot water with some liberal groups after voting against an amendment proposed in part by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders aimed at “making prescription drugs more affordable”.
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Elected this past November, people are already looking to Kamala Harris in four years. This isn’t exactly an unprecedented move: a certain Illinois Senator made a very quick turnaround after being elected to represent the Land of Lincoln in 2004. She has been an outspoken critic of President Trump, and she is posturing herself on the front lines of the Democratic protest and obstructionist movement. Literally.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
A former Representative appointed to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat in 2008, Kirsten Gillibrand has become a left-wing idol alongside her neighbor to the south, Cory Booker. During her tenure in the Senate, she has been in the vanguard on progressive issues from gun trafficking to sexaul assault in the military to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. She holds the distinction of being the only Senator to have voted for the fewest of President Trump’s cabinet picks, supporting only South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s nomination as UN Ambassador.
Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro (D-TX)
Another name on Hillary Clinton’s veep shortlist, maybe even the runner-up to Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), Julian Castro has been mentioned to run for every office under the Texan sun. This former San Antonio mayor first came into the political arena with the Obama wave of ‘08 and hasn’t left since.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)
My personal favorite of the lot [I’m from Connecticut, go Huskies], Chris Murphy is a rising star in the party just now getting off the ground. The fifteen hour, out-of-the-blue, pro-gun control filibuster this summer: that was him. His lesser known actions, however, make him a stand out candidate. He holds a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he often draws attention to situations abroad that are being under-covered. Yemen. Romania.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA)
Gavin Newsom is on the rise. San Francisco Board of Supervisors to San Francisco Mayor to California Lieutenant Governor, his rise was only momentarily slowed by an infidelity scandal in 2007. As of February 2017, he is the front-runner in the 2018 California gubernatorial election. An early proponent of same sex marriage, Newsom has now hitched his wagon the legalization of marijuana, a move that may very well win him the Governator’s old job. A 2020 run is not out of the question (Google searches for Gavin Newsom autocomplete to “Gavin Newsom 2020”), Newsom in November said, “being president sounds like the most miserable job in the world.”
Is it too early to be thinking about this? Yes. Unequivocally. There are elections in 2017, ‘18, and ‘19, not to mention special elections. But the possible 2020 candidates can’t simply be ignored. They will each be trying to tap into the fury of the growing “Blue Tea Party”, this upsurge of emotion following President Trump’s inauguration. The Women’s March is only the beginning, and any Democrat trying to run for the presidency in 2020 will have to grapple with the implications of this fact.