Workers Comp Zone


The announcement that Senator Barbara Boxer won’t run for re-election has set in motion a game of political musical chairs.

On a personal level, it’s hard to imagine that Senator Boxer has already served in the Senate for about 23 years. When I started at Boxer & Gerson in the mid-1980s she held a seat in the House of Representatives. Her kids Doug and Nicole pulled mail in our office on summer breaks. While I attended a jazz concert with her and her husband, my law partner Stewart Boxer, she mused about running for the Senate seat. It seems like yesterday when I took my first grader to the swearing in ceremony in D.C.

It kept things uncomplicated for our office that workers’ comp was not a federal issue. Once in a blue moon a client would demand that we contact the Senator to help with a case; a quick civics lesson cleared that up, explaining that workers’ comp was a state issue.

But Senator Boxer’s retirement will shake up the logjam in California politics. Attorney General Kamala Harris has already announced her intention to run in 2016. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has indicated he will not.

A quick glance at columns by the state’s leading political pundits notes a host of other potential Democratic candidates for the Boxer Senate seat: venture capitalist Tom Steyer, State Treasurer John Chiang, members of Congress Xavier Becerra, John Garamendi, Loretta Sanchez and Jackie Speier, newly elected State Controller Alex Padilla, State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villagairosa. There may be others. Last year there were rumors that George Clooney might like to get into politics.

I’ve even heard some speculation the Governor Brown could get into the fray. That seems unlikely, but the unpredictable Brown is sitting on a big campaign chest that could catapult him if he so chose.

How this field shakes out may well determine what the 2018 Governor’s race looks like.

Perhaps Newsom is biding his time, but by 2018 Newsom will have served a long time in a thankless, second-tier position. Even losers in the 2016 Senate race could set themselves up in a prominent position for the 2018 Governor’s race.

What does all of this mean for the California workers’ comp world over the long haul?

We’re going to see a number of politicians rising to the top who have little real track record on California workers’ comp issues. Other than Dave Jones, few have immersed themselves in workers’ comp.

Out of that pool we may see a Governor elected who will have unknown perspectives on workers’ comp.

Friendships made and support rendered over the next several years may or may not affect the direction of workers’ comp after the Brown era is long done.

It will be interesting to see the musical chairs game play out.

Stay tuned. In the coming week I’ll feature my annual quiz on projections for California workers’ comp 2015. You can subscribe to the blog with the feature on the right column.

Julius Young