Newsom Under Pressure to Replace Feinstein Fast

California governor has said he will choose Black woman for 'caretaker' role
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2023 12:22 PM CDT
Newsom Under Pressure to Replace Feinstein Fast
Rep. Barbara Lee speaks onstage during a public kickoff of her Senate campaign at Laney College on Feb. 25, 2023, in Oakland, Calif.   (Yalonda M. James/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

The Senate is no longer split 50/50, so the death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein won't temporarily return Republicans to the majority, but California Gov. Gavin Newsom is still under pressure to find a replacement fast. There are now 47 Democratic senators, plus three independents who caucus with them, and the party will need every vote as the budget standoff continues, Politico reports. Feinstein held seats on the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees and some leading Republicans have vowed to block Democrats from replacing her on the Judiciary committee, reports Insider.

Newsom released a statement Friday praising the 90-year-old Feinstein as a "dear friend" and "lifelong mentor," but he didn't set out a timeline for appointing a replacement. Under California law, the Democratic governor has sole discretion to choose somebody for the seat, CBS News reports. Newsom pledged in 2021 that he would appoint a Black woman if Feinstein's seat opened up during his term for any reason, though he clarified to NBC's Chuck Todd earlier this month that to avoid unfairness the "caretaker" in the role would not include any of the Democrats already running for the seat. Feinstein announced in February that she would not seek re-election next year.

Rep. Barbara Lee, a Black woman competing against candidates including Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter, said appointing a Black woman to "simply check a box is insulting to countless Black women across this country who have carried the Democratic Party to victory election after election." Lee noted that there have only been two other Black female senators in US history, including Kamala Harris, who was California's junior senator before she became vice president. Harris was also the first Black senator from west of the Mississippi. Feinstein's replacement will be the second. One possible replacement is California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, per CBS. Oprah Winfrey was talked about as a possible replacement months ago, but a spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times that she wasn't interested. (More Dianne Feinstein stories.)

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