SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing blowback after his recent comments regarding the prospect of appointing a replacement for Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Feinstein previously committed to serving her full term and not seeking reelection in 2024. She has dealt with several recent health issues, which have prompted calls for her to step down, including from members of her party.
Newsom appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" and addressed a question from host Chuck Todd about his 2021 promise to appoint a Black woman to a Senate vacancy. He reiterated this commitment and stated that he would make an "interim appointment" rather than selecting someone already running for the seat.
"It would be completely unfair to Democrats that have worked their tail off, with a primary just a matter of months away," Newsom said.
Todd followed up by asking, "It would essentially be a caretaker—an African American woman?"
Newsom responded, "We hope we never have to make that decision, but we abide by what I’ve said very publicly on a consistent basis. Yes."
Democratic representatives Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee are all running for the Senate seat, with Lee being the sole Black woman in the race.
In a statement, Lee responded, "The idea that a Black woman should be appointed only as a caretaker 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."
In an interview with KTVU, Lee added, "You can’t limit African American women as caretakers."
Lee expressed concern that Newsom's response to the hypothetical question could be another barrier for Black women in politics.
"We have been the backbone of the Democratic Party, after we have supported so many candidates," said Lee. "After we have done so much of the heavy lifting, that is infuriating to many."
Organizations such as Black Women for Political Action and other advocates for women of color in politics criticized the governor's comments, suggesting that Newsom might be reneging on his promise.
"We don’t want a holding position," said Dezie Woods-Jones. "It is time for them to respond and support us. We are extremely upset."
Newsom's team responded to the backlash with the following statement: " This is a hypothetical on top of a hypothetical. There is no vacancy for any U.S. Senate seat, nor does the governor anticipate there will be one."
An interim appointment could boost Lee’s campaign—a recent Berkeley IGS poll has her in third to Schiff and Porter. When asked, Lee points to the part of the survey that says more than 30% of people polled are undecided. Lee said she’s confident in her campaign.
"The Senate needs the perspective of a Black woman especially of an African American woman with experience," she said. "A woman who can take the ball and run with it."
The Senate currently has no Black women members and there have only been two Black women senators in history.