Can the California Effect Survive in a Hyperpartisan America?
For a while this winter, seemingly every text message that Buffy Wicks received asked if she was running for Congress. Representative Barbara Lee, of Californias 12th District, which includes Oakland, had announced that she would enter the race for Dianne Feinsteins soon-to-be-vacated Senate seat. This decision by Lee, who is 76, created a rare opportunity for the next generation of California Democrats to vie for federal office. And Wicks a 45-year-old State Assembly member who lives in Lees district and was last re-elected with 85 percent of the vote seemed like a natural candidate.
Soon enough, however, Wicks put out a statement that, humbled as she was by the suggestion, she wouldnt be seeking the seat. In March, I met Wicks at her office in Sacramento, where she was seated between a window overlooking the city and pictures from her years in the Obama administration. She told me that aside from the ego boost of having House of Representatives in her obituary, there was little for Congress to offer her. Her current job is bigger and more important, she argued, than much of what happens in Washington. I pass big bills here, Wicks told me. Why would I walk away from my ability to do that and go be one of 435 people in a very divided House that does not have a great track record of actually accomplishing anything?