Biden Cabinet official thinking about leaving Washington to go home and run for governor

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra may be preparing to leave the Biden administration after the November election for a chance to be the next governor of California.

The potential departure was discussed in private conversations between Becerra and Democratic officials and operatives, according to Politico. Becerra would enter the California gubernatorial race in 2026 — the end of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D-CA) term. 

On Tuesday, Becerra spoke in San Francisco about the current state of healthcare in the U.S. The HHS secretary was asked by a Politico reporter about his plans to run, and he waffled on an answer.

“It’s a blessing to hear that someone is saying that I’m running for governor because I don’t know who they are,” Becerra said. “I am secretary of HHS and, by law, I have to be secretary of HHS and nothing else. So I’m gonna do my job as best I can. It’s a thrill, I think my mom would be happy to hear that someone thinks I can run for governor as well.”

Becerra has allocated $1.55 million in a committee for Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2030, which can be used toward the governor’s race.

The secretary’s potential departure from the Cabinet if President Joe Biden wins a second term could put the president in a tough nomination battle. Congress could draw out the nomination process for Becerra’s replacement, which could stunt the beginning of his second term.

Under the Biden administration, Becerra has spent the last few months on the road promoting Biden’s key health issues like abortion rights and lowering drug prices. However, he has also flirted with Republican-led initiatives such as requiring drug testing for welfare recipients. 

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“Knowing San Francisco well, we should be willing to consider anything that helps us tackle this drug addiction crisis because so many people are dying today,” Becerra said at Politico’s Health Care Summit. “We need to get a grip on this.”

Though two years away, California’s gubernatorial race is already crowded with Democratic bids for running coming from Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, former state Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, former State Controller Betty Yee, and Attorney General Rob Bonta.

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