Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Will State AG Rob Bonta Jump Into 2026 Race for CA Governor?
dan_walters
By Dan Walters, CalMatters Commentary
Published 1 month ago on
April 18, 2024

Attorney General Rob Bonta's recent activities suggest a potential run for California governor in 2026 amid a big field of Democratic candidates. (CalMatters/Miguel Gutierrez Jr.)

Share

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

California Attorney General Rob Bonta has been busy lately, or so it would seem from the never-ending stream of news releases from the Department of Justice.

Dan Walters Profile Picture
Dan Walters

CalMatters

Opinion

If he’s not announcing successful prosecution for possession of child pornography (April 11) or commenting on a U.S. Supreme Court decision (April 12), Bonta’s staging a news conference to announce a lawsuit against the city of Huntington Beach for imposing its own voting requirements (April 14), releasing final regulations of one-line charities (April 16), or declaring the outcome of an investigation into an officer-involved shooting (April 17).

Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Bonta to his position three years ago, succeeding Xavier Becerra, who became U.S. secretary of health and welfare.

Were Bonta merely seeking a full term as attorney general in 2026, he wouldn’t need so much publicity-seeking activity. It would be a political cakewalk.

However, if he’s setting the stage to run for governor two years hence, he would be doing exactly what he is doing: maximizing his official actions to build his image as an effective officeholder.

AGs Are Frequent Gubernatorial Candidates

Bonta hasn’t said he is running for governor, but while occupying what is arguably the state’s second most powerful office, he needn’t do so yet. Attorneys general are automatically listed as potential candidates for governor.

In recent history, governors Pat Brown, George Deukmejian, and Jerry Brown all had been AGs and three others made bids, Evelle Younger (1978), John Van de Kamp (1990) and Dan Lungren (1998).

While Bonta could be, and probably is, running a shadow campaign under the guise of official duties, his would-be opponents don’t have that luxury.

Others Angling to Succeed Newsom

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is running, and a couple of recent governors used her office as a launch pad — Gray Davis in 1998 and Newsom in 2018. But they were, in a sense, flukes because lieutenant governors have virtually no official duties and draw almost no media attention.

As mayor of San Francisco, Newsom wanted to run for governor in 2010, but was shouldered aside by Jerry Brown. With obvious reluctance, instead Newsom ran for lieutenant governor after deriding the office as having “no real authority and no real portfolio.”

Despite the obscurity of her office Kounalakis does have two potential advantages — her experience as ambassador to Hungary and very substantial family wealth — that could help her gain one of the two runoff spots in the 2026 open primary. Her father, Angelo Tsakopoulos, is a wealthy land developer in Sacramento who is also a major Democratic campaign contributor.

One other statewide officer, state schools Superintendent Tony Thurmond, is also in the mix and has been making numerous public appearances in that role to boost his image. Toni Atkins, former president pro tem of the state Senate, and former Controller Betty Yee have also declared their candidacies.

There may be more coming. Latinos are California’s largest ethnic bloc, but so far no candidate is Latino. It would be stunning if the 2026 election didn’t have at least one Latino candidate. Becerra, Bonta’s predecessor as attorney general, is believed to be weighing a run.

So what about the Republicans? The GOP bench is thin to the point of transparency. While it may be impossible for the party to win, the presence of a Republican candidate – no matter how weak – could change the dynamics of having a large field of Democrats running in a top-two primary system.

That’s exactly what happened in the March primary for U.S. Senate. The late entry of Republican Steve Garvey, a former baseball star, blocked what could have been a Democrat vs. Democrat run-off by finishing second, thanks in part to being indirectly aided by the Democratic frontrunner, Rep. Adam Schiff.

About the Author

Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. He began his professional career in 1960, at age 16, at the Humboldt Times. CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more columns by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary.

Make Your Voice Heard

GV Wire encourages vigorous debate from people and organizations on local, state, and national issues. Submit your op-ed to bmcewen@gvwire.com for consideration.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Sued Over Alleged 2003 Sexual Assault

DON'T MISS

Petrochemical Company Fined $30M for 2019 Houston Explosions

DON'T MISS

Fresno Has Big Plans for Chukchansi Park Lot. Do They Even Own It?

DON'T MISS

Fresno State Football Welcomes Six Transfers to the Roster

DON'T MISS

California Health Sciences University Celebrates Inaugural Doctors Graduation Ceremony

DON'T MISS

The Rumble in the Valley: Old Town Clovis Motorama

DON'T MISS

Use Your Library Card for Free Admission to Millerton Lake. For a Few More Weeks, Anyway.

DON'T MISS

A Radical Lesson From El Salvador to Solve Fresno Housing & Homeless Crisis

DON'T MISS

US Open Champ Coco Gauff Urges Young Americans to Vote: ‘Use the Power That We Have’

DON'T MISS

Graceland Not for Sale, Elvis Presley’s Granddaughter Riley Keough Affirms in Lawsuit

UP NEXT

Petrochemical Company Fined $30M for 2019 Houston Explosions

UP NEXT

Fresno Has Big Plans for Chukchansi Park Lot. Do They Even Own It?

UP NEXT

Fresno State Football Welcomes Six Transfers to the Roster

UP NEXT

California Health Sciences University Celebrates Inaugural Doctors Graduation Ceremony

UP NEXT

Use Your Library Card for Free Admission to Millerton Lake. For a Few More Weeks, Anyway.

UP NEXT

A Radical Lesson From El Salvador to Solve Fresno Housing & Homeless Crisis

UP NEXT

US Open Champ Coco Gauff Urges Young Americans to Vote: ‘Use the Power That We Have’

UP NEXT

Graceland Not for Sale, Elvis Presley’s Granddaughter Riley Keough Affirms in Lawsuit

UP NEXT

UN Halts Food Distribution in Rafah Due to Supply Shortage

UP NEXT

Ricky Stenhouse Faces Suspension for Punching Kyle Busch After All-Star Race

Fresno State Football Welcomes Six Transfers to the Roster

9 hours ago

California Health Sciences University Celebrates Inaugural Doctors Graduation Ceremony

11 hours ago

The Rumble in the Valley: Old Town Clovis Motorama

11 hours ago

Use Your Library Card for Free Admission to Millerton Lake. For a Few More Weeks, Anyway.

13 hours ago

A Radical Lesson From El Salvador to Solve Fresno Housing & Homeless Crisis

13 hours ago

US Open Champ Coco Gauff Urges Young Americans to Vote: ‘Use the Power That We Have’

14 hours ago

Graceland Not for Sale, Elvis Presley’s Granddaughter Riley Keough Affirms in Lawsuit

14 hours ago

UN Halts Food Distribution in Rafah Due to Supply Shortage

14 hours ago

Ricky Stenhouse Faces Suspension for Punching Kyle Busch After All-Star Race

14 hours ago

Scarlett Johansson Says ChatGPT Voice Is ‘Eerily Similar’; OpenAI Halts Its Use

15 hours ago

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Sued Over Alleged 2003 Sexual Assault

NEW YORK — A former model accused Sean “Diddy” Combs of sexually assaulting her at his New York City recording studio in 2003 in a lawsuit f...

6 hours ago

6 hours ago

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Sued Over Alleged 2003 Sexual Assault

8 hours ago

Petrochemical Company Fined $30M for 2019 Houston Explosions

8 hours ago

Fresno Has Big Plans for Chukchansi Park Lot. Do They Even Own It?

9 hours ago

Fresno State Football Welcomes Six Transfers to the Roster

11 hours ago

California Health Sciences University Celebrates Inaugural Doctors Graduation Ceremony

Classic Chevelle Old Town Motorama 24 Clovis California
11 hours ago

The Rumble in the Valley: Old Town Clovis Motorama

13 hours ago

Use Your Library Card for Free Admission to Millerton Lake. For a Few More Weeks, Anyway.

Conversations on a Bench — Fresno
13 hours ago

A Radical Lesson From El Salvador to Solve Fresno Housing & Homeless Crisis

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend