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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Meghan Markle’s meeting with Gov. Newsom sparks talk about her political potential

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Martha Ross, The Mercury News, (TNS)

Meghan Markle may be pretty busy these days, expecting her second child with Prince Harry while handling the demands of her new career as a philanthropist, Netflix producer, Spotify podcaster and crusader against an intrusive tabloid media.

CBS announced this week that she and Harry will be interviewed by friend Oprah Winfrey for an upcoming TV special, in which they’ll discuss their marriage, philanthropic efforts and their move away from Britain’s royal family last year.

But top political strategists also say the Duchess of Sussex could have a bright future in politics in her home state of California, arguing that she could use her global fame as a British royal to follow the “well-worn path” adopted by Arnold Schwarzenegger ahead of his run for governor.

“She’s doing everything that’s appropriate and allowed given her new position but she’s definitely putting her toe in the water,” Mike Trujillo, a prominent Democratic strategist, said in an interview with the Times of the U.K. “And once your toe is in the water your whole foot is in and next thing you know you are knee-deep and then you are fully in.”

Trujillo was reacting to news last week that Meghan and Harry had a private, one-hour virtual meeting with California Gov. Gavin Newsom in October, a couple weeks ahead of the U.S. election.

The news prompted some “wild speculation” that the Los Angeles-born former TV actress wanted Newsom to consider her for the vacant U.S. Senate seat if Kamala Harris were elected vice president, the Times said.

In an email to the Bay Area News Group, Newsom’s office declined to comment on the topics discussed during the “introductory” meeting. Someone close to the Sussexes told the Times that the meeting was more social than political and included Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

Laure-Anne Bosselaar, a poet who lives in Santa Barbara, California, near the couple’s new home in Montecito, said locals assume that the meeting was related to Meghan and Harry’s new Archewell Foundation and the philanthropic causes they hope to support.

But the U.K. tabloid The Sun, a regular critic of the Sussexes, reported that the meeting could be evidence that the two want to further involve themselves in U.S. politics. The Sun said such involvement should be a no-no because they are part of the royal family, which which has long had a policy of staying neutral on politics.

However, the Daily Beast pointed out that the Sussexes are no longer senior working royals, since leaving the U.K. last year. That presumably means they are freer to speak out on certain topics or to interact with certain politicians.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Newsom’s critics, including those leading the recall effort against him, would raise questions about his choice to take time out of his schedule to chat with Harry and Meghan. Since stepping away from the royal duties last year, they no longer have an official diplomatic function.

Several weeks after his meeting with the duke and duchess, Newsom faced widespread criticism for acting elitist and undermining his COVID-19 stay-at-home messages by attending a crowded dinner at the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, one of the state’s swankiest restaurants.

But Trujillo told the Times he was excited about Meghan and Harry meeting with Newsom and hoped that Meghan would consider getting involved in state politics. “I think it’s fantastic,” he said.

Since the couple stepped down from their official duties as royals last year and moved to Montecito, they signed deals with Netflix and Spotify and launched their Archewell Foundation, which has several initiatives, including creating safer online communities and promoting mental health services for underserved Black women and girls.

The Times noted that their first Spotify podcast featured Georgia activist Stacey Abrams, whose political organizing is widely credited with helping Joe Biden and Democratic Senate candidates win in that state for the first time since 1992.

Trujillo told the Times that such moves could give her a platform for a future political run.

“Everything she’s doing is similar to what other folks have done before they run for office,” Trujillo told the Times. He pointed out that Schwarzenegger started a foundation that promoted after-school programs and allowed him to talk about the need for tutoring and after-school care. “That’s what introduced him to politics.”

Another strategist, Roger Salazar, also told the Times he was happy to see the couple get more involved in politics. He also argued that the state is welcoming to “newcomers” like Harry.

“California is one of those states that welcomes fresh perspectives,” said Salazar, who worked in the Clinton administration.

But others doubt Meghan has political ambitions, with one “well-informed source” telling the Times that the Sussexes are focused right now “on making money.”

“I don’t really think she has political ambitions now,” the source said. “But her ego knows no bounds, so maybe she is keeping the door open. But she cannot right now, because they are very focused on making money. Running for public office and making a fortune don’t go together.”

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