Democrats’ slim majority in the U.S. Senate has put additional pressure on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to quickly pick a successor following the death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
A number of names were already emerging in California circles on Friday. The situation is complicated and fraught with political risk for Newsom, a term-limited governor with national political ambitions.
Democratic governor promises to appoint a black woman. He also pledged to shun candidates already running for Feinstein’s seat, which is set to expire at the end of next year, including Rep. Barbara Lee, the state’s most prominent person currently serving in elected office. one of the black women.
When filling a Senate vacancy, Newsom has sole authority to name a successor. He could even choose himself, although that’s unlikely.
Newsom made no mention of Feinstein’s successor in a statement released Friday morning marking Feinstein’s death.
“Diane Feinstein was many things—a powerful, trailblazing U.S. senator; an early voice for gun control; a leader during times of tragedy and chaos. But to me, she was more than just a dear friend, a lifelong mentor, and a role model not only to me, but to my wife and daughter, what a strong, effective leader looks like,” Newsom said. “No one has the power, gravitas and ferocity of Dianne Feinstein.”
On Capitol Hill, Feinstein’s death leaves Senate Democrats no room for error before naming a successor.
Democrats currently hold only 50 seats in the Senate, while Republicans hold 49 seats. Meanwhile, many Democrats are calling for indicted Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez to resign, even as the embattled Democrat vows to resign. Don’t step down.
While Democrats retain control of the upper chamber of Congress, Feinstein’s absence will make it more difficult for Biden to nominate judges to the Judiciary Committee.
Newsom’s choices all face political risks.
U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee and Katie Porter joined the race for Feinstein’s seat after she announced she would not seek re-election in 2024 Competition.
If he follows through on his promise to avoid picking from those already running in Senate primaries, he could elect a true caretaker who would be replaced by whomever voters choose in next year’s election .
A number of Black women in office have been considered possible candidates, including Secretary of State Shirley Weber and Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.
Lee and others blasted Newsom earlier this month after Newsom said he would choose a caretaker instead of choosing from the current pool of candidates.
“The idea that black women should be appointed caretakers just to simply check a box is an insult to the countless black women across the country who lead the Democratic Party election after election,” Lee wrote on Twitter Achieve victory.”
Some California Democrats remain uneasy about Newsom’s final Senate appointment.
When Kamala Harris was elected vice president, he selected then-California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to replace her in the Senate. The process took more than six weeks. That made Padilla California’s first Latina senator, but also resulted in no black women in the Senate.
He later pledged to choose a black woman to replace Feinstein if her seat became vacant.
“He made a promise, and I don’t think the governor has any wiggle room not to fulfill his promise,” Los Angeles Democratic strategist and fundraiser Kerman Maddox said before Feinstein’s death.
Newsom said in a recent interview with Fox 11 in Los Angeles that he has received a lot of advice on how to fill potential vacancies in the Senate.
Newsom’s decision was clouded by his personal relationship with the late senator.
Newsom’s father, a prominent San Francisco judge, has known Feinstein since childhood and recently spoke of their personal relationship. He interned in her office while in college and said he considered her family. Not too long ago, he said, she would call him to discuss issues ranging from water policy to forest management.
“I don’t have any objectivity,” he said in a recent interview with NBC when asked about Feinstein and her decision to remain in the Senate.
He said he hopes he never has to make the decision to fill her seat.
The People reported from New York. Associated Press writers Katherine Ronain in Sacramento, Calif., and Mary Claire Jalonick in Washington contributed.