A top Hillary Clinton campaign aide filed paperwork to run for California governor on Wednesday morning, potentially shaking up a crowded field of candidates.
Amanda Renteria, who served as national political director for Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and ran for Congress in the Central Valley in 2014, shocked strategists and political leaders with her bid for higher office.
Currently the chief of operations for Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Renteria said in a tweet Wednesday that she was still working at Becerra’s office. She didn’t respond to a request for comment about her campaign.
For questions coming in right now: I am still serving as the Chief of Operations at the California Department of Justice.
— Amanda Renteria (@AmandaRenteria) February 14, 2018
If she does follow through with a run for the governor’s mansion, Renteria would be the fifth major Democrat in the race, joining Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, State Treasurer John Chiang and former state schools chief Delaine Eastin. Also running are Republicans Travis Allen, a state assemblyman, John Cox, a San Diego County businessman, and Doug Ose, a former congressman.
With less than four months to go until the June 5 primary, Renteria would face an uphill battle against the other candidates, some of whom have been running for years.
Renteria, 43, grew up in Tulare County, the daughter of migrant farm workers. She went to Stanford and Harvard and worked briefly in the San Jose city government after graduating, before moving to Washington, D.C. to work as a Senate aide. She worked for Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., becoming the first Latina to serve as a Senate chief of staff.
In 2014, Renteria returned home to run for congress against Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford. She lost 58 percent to 42 percent, but attracted national attention to the race and raised more money than any Democrat in the district has recently.
Her bid for governor caught some local party leaders unawares. “Wow, that hits me by surprise,” said Michael Evans, the chair of the Fresno County Democratic Party. “While she is late and that could make it difficult to get endorsements, she’s certainly proved herself to be adept at raising money.”
Renteria has far lower name recognition than the other Democratic candidates, and many donors and supporters are already committed to other candidates. She would be the first Democrat in the race who hails from the Central Valley, which might help her find a unique base — although Evans said she currently lives in Menlo Park.
If her candidacy gained traction, she could attract Latino voters from Villaraigosa, potentially helping Newsom. And having more Democrats in the race would dilute each candidate’s vote, making it easier for a Republican to get past the top-two primary in June.
Evans, who worked with Renteria extensively during her 2014 race, said she should not be taken for granted.
“She brought incredible energy and brilliance to the area that we really really needed,” he said.