Rep. Ellen Tauscher confirmed Wednesday that she has accepted a State Department post in the Obama administration, subject to confirmation.
Now in her seventh term, Tauscher, D-Alamo, said that representing her 10th Congressional District has always been her first priority.
Tauscher said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked her to serve as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, and she accepted after talking to family and friends.
"While her offer is both generous and flattering, I did not take the decision lightly. ... Keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists, making sure other countries do not obtain them and, one day, I hope, ridding the world of these terrible weapons has become my passion and, I hope, my life's work."
If confirmed, she would serve as a senior adviser on arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament issues to President Barack Obama and to Clinton, whom she supported in last year's Democratic presidential primaries.
Tauscher noted that the confirmation process "is fraught with uncertainty and can take weeks, if not months," and while it progresses, she and her staff will continue their work.
Potential candidates to succeed Tauscher in the House already are warming up for a special election to fill the rest of her two-year term, which ends in January 2011.
California Republican Party Vice Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette said Wednesday that he has heard from three possible candidates; none want their names made public until they have finished their "due diligence" in gauging their support and willingness to run. He also said some people have asked him to consider running, and "I will honor their request to look at it as well."
Republican Nicholas Gerber, a Moraga businessman who challenged Tauscher last year and got 31.1 percent of the vote, said he's "absolutely" ready to run again. "We tried to bring word to moderate Republicans last time and we had some traction — we had more than 90,000 people vote for me."
New figures released Wednesday show that the district's GOP voter registration dropped three-tenths of a percent since October to 29 percent — continuing a declining trend over recent years — compared to 47 percent Democratic registration and 20 percent decline-to-state, so the Democratic nominee will be hard to beat.
Shannan Velayas, spokeswoman for Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, said Torlakson "has been concentrating on his campaign for state Superintendent of Public Instruction, and that effort is continuing." However, she added: "He clearly is the logical choice to succeed Congresswoman Tauscher should he decide to run."
State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said he is "very interested, but I want to be respectful of the process and of Ellen," whom he described as a longtime friend and dedicated public servant. But, he said, if she leaves, "I know my name ID is good and my positives are good, so I think I'm in a good spot if this were to work out."
Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, who was elected in November in one of the East Bay's hardest-fought races, also said she's "very interested — I think it's a great opportunity, and I'm going to seriously explore my options."
Former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla, D-Pittsburg, who is exploring a 2010 run for state attorney general, said Wednesday that he will not rule out a bid for Tauscher's seat, either. "I'm not going to foreclose anything at this point," he said.
His wife, 2006 Assembly candidate and Pittsburg Unified School District trustee Laura Canciamilla, said she has no designs on Tauscher's seat. Contra Costa County Assistant Voter Registrar Candy Lopez said Wednesday that it is far too late to consolidate this special election with the May 19 statewide special election for state-budget ballot measures.
She said that once Tauscher actually leaves the seat vacant, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has 14 days in which to set a date for a special general election; that date cannot be less than 112 days from the governor's proclamation. The special primary election will then fall eight Tuesdays before that general election date, she said, and the nomination period will be based on that primary date.
"If the state won't give us some kind of relief and pay for the election, it could be very bad for our budget, which is out of the county's general fund," Lopez said. "We're hoping we can work with our legislators ... but we're not far enough along to know if that will happen."
About 251,000 registered Contra Costa County voters live in the 10th District — just under half the county's total registration, and roughly 60 percent to 70 percent of the district's total registration. Besides much of eastern and central Contra Costa County, the district includes Livermore in Alameda County; Dixon, Fairfield, Suisun City and Elmira in Solano County; and Isleton and Walnut Grove in Sacramento County. Those counties registrars' will have to conduct the special election for 10th District voters, too.