SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom is vetting Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg for a judicial post, an appointment that could prompt a special election for the leader of California’s capital city.

The California State Bar emailed confidential questionnaires to several members last week asking them to evaluate Steinberg, a Democrat, as part of the official state vetting process for judicial nominees. According to the email obtained by POLITICO, Newsom is considering Steinberg for the Third District Court of Appeals in Sacramento.

Steinberg confirmed his interest in the post through a statement provided by his office, but did not specify a timeline.

"I have two years left in my current term as mayor and I am fully focused on the challenges and opportunities we face in the city of Sacramento,” Steinberg said in a statement. “I’ve submitted an application for the judiciary because I’m open to all possibilities for my long term future."

A spokesperson for the governor said his office does not comment on individual judicial candidacies.

Steinberg spent 14 years in the California Legislature, first in the Assembly and then the Senate, where he led the body as president pro tempore. He is serving his second term as Sacramento mayor and had previously said he was not interested in seeking a third term in 2024.

Much of his political career has centered on homelessness and mental health. Steinberg championed a landmark 2004 state ballot measure placing a 1 percent tax on income over $1 million to help fund state behavioral health programs. Before running for mayor, he established the Steinberg Institute, which frequently weighs in on mental health policy and legislation in California.

A longtime supporter and political ally to the governor, Steinberg for years has been a rumored candidate for gubernatorial appointments. In 2020, he was on the short list to take over as California Attorney General following the departure of Xavier Becerra for the Biden administration — a job that ultimately went to then-Assemblymember Rob Bonta.

If Steinberg leaves office before November 2023, the City Council will have to call a special election to replace him,according to city code. If the office is vacated within a year of the next general election, council members will vote on a replacement to carry out the remainder of his term.

Jeremy B. White contributed to this report.

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