California Governor Gavin Newsom has a free hand to decide who he wants to appoint to succeed the late Senator Dianne Feinstein in the Senate – but he is hemmed in by his own promises and complex political constraints.
Feinstein, who died Thursday at the age of 90, has been a force in the politics of California and her hometown of San Francisco for decades. Now it’s up to Newsom to decide who will succeed her until an election is held in November 2024.
He has already indicated immediately who he will appoint: a black woman. Vice President Kamala Harris is one of only two Black women to serve in the Senate in Senate history, and Newsom said outright that in the event of a vacancy he would appoint another.
‘I have several names in mind. We have several names in mind — and the answer is yes,” he told MSNBC host Joy Reid in March when asked if he would nominate a Black woman.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has the authority to appoint a successor to the late Senator Dianne Feinstein. He said amid Feinstein’s health concerns that he would appoint a Black woman to the seat. Three prominent state Democrats are already vying for the seat in the primaries
There are several Black women in California politics to choose from. One of them, Rep. Barbara Lee, is already running for the seat, complicating matters.
Others include Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, another former member of Congress. She was only elected to this post last year.
Additional names emerged as Feinstein battled health issues and missed votes, including Secretary of State Shirley Weber, LA County Supervisor Holly Mitchell and San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Politics May reported.
Selecting Lee could spark accusations of giving her an unfair advantage in the hotly contested primary. That would give her a chance to run as an incumbent in 2024, a substantial lead in a heavily Democratic state.
Newsom said this a few weeks ago on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“It would be completely unfair to the Democrats who have made an effort,” he said. ‘These primaries are only a matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance.’
An LA Times/Berkeley IGS poll this week showed California Rep. Adam Schiff leading with 20 percent. Schiff, a former House impeachment manager, was followed by Rep. Katie Porter with 17 percent and Lee with 7 percent.
Newsom called Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who died at 90, a ‘political giant’
California Sec. Secretary of State Shirley Weber has been mentioned as a possible appointee
Holly J. Mitchell, member of the LA Board of Supervisors, has also been named
Barbara Lee, D-Calif., is already running for the Senate seat, which could make it difficult for Newsom to appoint her
Former Rep. Karen Bass was elected mayor of LA last year
Rep. Katie Porter is battling Bass and Rep. Adam Schiff in the 2024 race for the vacant Feinstein seat
Rep. Adam Schiff leads early polls. He served as a House impeachment manager in the Senate
One state political advisor, Michael Trujillo, floated the idea that Newsom would appoint Weber and later reappoint her as her secretary of state.
Schiff is an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 83, who surprised politicians in both parties by announcing she would seek re-election next year. She currently holds the title of Speaker Emerita, but continues to hold sway in her party and is an effective fundraiser.
The longtime Democratic senator has struggled with health problems over the past year. including a case of shingles that kept her away from the Senate for a month. She also fell at her San Francisco home in August and was briefly hospitalized.
Feinstein remained in her Senate seat despite pressure to resign due to her health. She used a wheelchair in the Senate and aides were seen telling her how to vote.
She was the fifth oldest person to serve in the Senate.
Newom is a rallying force within his own party. The Biden campaign sent him to Simi Valley this week as a counter-spokesman for the Republican presidential debate.
He will debate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis next month on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s program. He has also repeatedly denied his own interest in running for the White House, amid election issues for the 80-year-old Biden and insiders’ concerns that public perception of his age and vitality could hurt his chances .
Newsom called Feinstein a “political giant” in a statement Friday who “broke barriers and glass ceilings.”
He called her a “powerful, groundbreaking U.S. Senator” and a “leader in times of tragedy and chaos.”
In words that underscored the challenge of choosing someone to succeed her, he said, “There is simply no one who had the poise, the gravitas and the fierceness of Dianne Feinstein.”