Hollywood Democrats Scout for Sen. Barbara Boxer's Successor

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Sen. Barbara Boxer

The long-time California senator announced Thursday that she won't seek reelection in 2016, setting off industry chatter that Kamala Harris, Eric Garcetti and even George Clooney could enter the race

California's Barbara Boxer, one of Hollywood's favorite progressives, may be planning to exit the U.S. Senate, but it seems clear that she has no intention of leaving electoral politics behind.

In a video Q&A with her grandson Zach Rodham, the veteran Democratic lawmaker hinted that she plans to campaign for Hillary Clinton's presidential nomination, remarking that "I want to help our Democratic candidate for president make history."

If Clinton does run, as seems increasingly likely, Boxer's backing would give her another strong tie to Hollywood. Thirty-nine years ago, when the one-time Marin County pol was first elected to the Senate, she was the first of the entertainment industry's political "it girls". One of Boxer's earliest and most active supporters was the Hollywood Women's Political Committee, then led by the Academy Award-winning songwriting team of Marilyn and Alan Bergman.

Boxer appealed to Westside liberals not only because of her reliably progressive politics, but also because her campaign coincided with the rising feminist tide across society. Throughout her nearly four decades in the Senate, she has remained a firm friend of Hollywood's political agenda and of much of its most generous political donors' causes.

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There are a number of Democrats on the Hollywood's wish list to fill the seat. They include California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, who not only enjoys wide entertainment industry support, but also is frequently mentioned by big donors as higher-office material. The industry is also enamored with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (even though he said Thursday afternoon that he planned to stay at City Hall) and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has strong support in the gay community from his years as San Francisco mayor. Rumors continue to persist that George Clooney may weigh a senatorial bid.  (A similar rumor was circulated last year about the actor seeking to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown.) Clooney has repeatedly said, however, that he has no plan to run for any office.

As for Boxer, there was a bit of entertainment industry marketing dazzle in the unconventional forum she chose to announce her retirement — a mock interview posted online rather than a traditional press conference. 

In the Q&A, Boxer's grandson (and Clinton's nephew) asks: 'Grandma, have you made a decision regarding the Senate 2016 Senate race?"

"I have Zach," she said, and then responding to another of his questions, adds that the "constant infighting in the senate" was not a factor in her decision. "When you stand up there and you fight to make sure there's a strong middle class and you protect a woman's right to choose, and you fight for jobs, and a clean environment, all those things — human rights, civil rights — that's a fight worth making," she said. "So that is not a factor in my decision."

In a statement released Thursday, mega Democratic donor Tom Steyer, said, "Over the course of her career, Senator Barbara Boxer has been a warrior for progressive causes—protecting our climate, championing the rights of women and children, and defending the core Democratic values of civil rights and economic equality for millions of Americans. We Californians have been very, very fortunate to have her representing us.

"I know that over the next two years, Senator Boxer will continue to serve California proudly in Washington, D.C. Moreover, as she enters the next chapter of her professional life, I am confident that Senator Boxer will never truly retire from fighting for the values she cares about so deeply."

Congressman Brad Sherman, meanwhile, said he was "saddened" to learn that Boxer would not be seeking reelection. "She is a superb representative of California and a tenacious and effective Senator," he said. "Although her time in this body has not yet run out, she has established a tremendous legacy as a champion of environmental protection, women's rights, and strong progressive values."

In her video, Boxer does go on to say that she is "never going to retire" from politics. "The work is too important," she said. "But I will not be running for the senate in 2016. But I'm going to continue working on the issues that I love. I have more time to help other people through my PAC For Change Committee. I want to make sure the senate seat stays progressive. That is so critical. And I want to help our Democratic candidate for president make history."