Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, has accepted an offer from the Obama administration to serve in a post at the U.S. State Department, sparking speculation about who will fill her seat as the representative of California's 10th Congressional District.
Tauscher accepted the position of Undersecretary of Arms Control and International Security, and will leave her Congressional seat pending Senate confirmation, which she said in a statement Wednesday is a process "fraught with uncertainty, and can take weeks, if not months."
If confirmed, Tauscher will leave a district that includes much of Contra Costa County, as well as parts of Alameda, Solano and Sacramento counties. She has held the district's seat since 1997. She once represented Pleasanton before the 10th and 11th districts were redrawn along with other California districts in 2001.
Another candidate will fill the seat for the rest of a two-year term that will end in 2011. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has 14 days to set a date for a special vacancy election after Tauscher is confirmed, according to Contra Costa County Assistant County Registrar Candy Lopez. The election would be held between 112 and 126 days after the governor's proclamation.
Tauscher kept her seat in November's election by getting 65.1 percent of the district's vote, compared to 31.1 percent for Republican challenger Nicholas Gerber.
Gerber said Thursday he plans on running for the seat again if it is vacated, and is confident he can win this time around, pointing out Tauscher received her lowest vote percentage since the 2000 elections.
"They say it takes three times for someone trying to break through," Gerber said. "I like to do things in a hurry though, because this would be time number two."
Tom Del Baccaro, a Lafayette man who is the state's Republican Party Vice Chairman and served from 2003-2008 as the chairman of the Contra Costa County Republican Party, said today he was looking into running for the seat.
"I'm considering it, but there's also some other great people in the county who right now are looking at it and asked me not to release their names while they do their background work," Del Baccaro said.
As of Thursday, Contra Costa County, which makes up most of the district, had 263,749 registered Democrats, compared to 137,698 registered Republicans. Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, said that those numbers will be tough for a Republican candidate to overcome.
"The odds are you're replacing one Democrat with another," Whalen said. "I can't think of a prominent Republican who could step in and make up that numerical disadvantage."
Whalen said there were "no obvious candidates" from the Democratic side, while Gerber said he has seen speculation online that Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, or state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, could possibly pursue the seat.
Spokespeople from Torlakson and DeSaulnier's offices were not immediately available for comment.
Tauscher supported Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rather than President Obama in the Democratic primaries, and said in her statement today that Clinton asked her to serve in the State Department, an offer that was "both generous and flattering."
Whalen said Tauscher might have been a candidate to fill the U.S. Senate seat that could possibly be vacated by Dianne Feinstein if she runs for governor in 2010, or does not run for the Senate again in 2012, "but I guess maybe she didn't want to wait around."