OAKLAND, Calif — California Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing new pressure to name a Black woman to the Senate seat held by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris — even as expectations grow that he’ll pick Secretary of State Alex Padilla for the role.
Newsom received letters this week from two women’s groups insisting he ensure the seat go to a Black woman. Harris, who must step down before taking the oath of office in January, is the only Black woman in the Senate.
More than 100 women affiliated with Let’s Win with Black Women, a national collaborative of leading black women, urged the governor to select either Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland or Rep. Karen Bass of Los Angeles.
“Black women have continuously been credited with saving the Democratic Party. By retaining the only seat held in the United States Senate by a Black woman, California has an opportunity to do more than just thank Black women,’’ the women stated in the letter. “Congresswoman Bass and Congresswoman Lee, both of whom are seasoned policymakers and proven leaders, will hit the ground running to address the devastating economic impact and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ the letter states.
The organization’s members said they have joined with dozens of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the California Legislative Black Caucus and the California Democratic Party in making the recommendation. Aimee Allison, the founder of San Francisco-based She The People, an advocacy organization for women of color, was among those to sign the letter.
Let’s Keep the Seat, a group representing dozens of female elected officials in California, also wrote Newsom this week urging him to acknowledge the role Black women had in President-elect Joe Biden‘s election.
“With Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ departure, there will be NO African American women in the entire U.S. Senate. This is unacceptable in general, but especially troubling now given the racially charged issues confronting our society and the need for more diverse representation,’’ the group’s members state in the letter.
The letter was signed by state Assemblymembers Shirley Weber, Autumn Burke and Sydney Kamlager-Dove, as well as L.A. County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, Board of Equalization member Malia Cohen, Compton Mayor Aja Brown, Rialto Mayor Deborah Robertson and dozens of others.
Newsom has also heard from Latino organizations and legislators urging he appoint Padilla, saying that Latinos represent 40 percent of the state’s residents and have not had a U.S. senator in California’s 170-year history. And LGBTQ advocacy groups like Equality California have also weighed in, saying Newsom should make a historic pick from their community, like Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.
Newsom is expected to announce his pick for the Harris seat before Christmas.