OAKLAND — California Gov. Gavin Newsom committed Monday to nominating a Black woman for the U.S. Senate should Sen. Dianne Feinstein resign from the seat she’s held for more than two decades.
Newsom made the comments to MSNBC host Joy Reid in an appearance on her show, saying he has multiple names in mind for the spot.
The governor’s surprise statement came as Reid asked Newsom if he would commit to naming a Black woman to the Senate if Feinstein steps down and whether he has thought of particular replacements.
Newsom told Reid, “I have multiple names in mind. We have multiple names in mind — and the answer is yes.”
There has been no indication that Feinstein will step aside, but a growing number of Democrats have raised the possibility in recent months after their displeasure with how she handled the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, as well as damaging reports in POLITICO and The New Yorker about Feinstein’s age-related missteps.
Feinstein could face additional pressure to step down this year with the recall election expected to qualify. While California’s electorate gives Democrats an advantage in protecting Newsom’s governorship and avoiding a GOP replacement, the possibility remains that a Republican could take the seat and have nomination powers at least until January 2023.
The California governor faced lobbying after the November presidential election to name a Black woman to fill the seat of then-Sen. Kamala Harris — the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate when she was elected vice president. Newsom ultimately chose Sen. Alex Padilla, the state’s first Latino senator who was serving as California secretary of state.
Aimee Allison, founder of She The People, a leading California advocacy group committed to boosting the women of color in elected office, called Newsom’s statement Monday “a game changer,” saying his commitment was “incredible — and long overdue.”
Many women’s groups and Black leaders, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed, expressed disappointment when Newsom picked Padilla. Among those whose names considered in the mix for the Harris seat were Rep. Karen Bass of Los Angeles, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland and Breed.
Newsom’s statement came on the same day the governor launched his most forceful defense yet against a recall election likely to qualify this year. Newsom alleged on MSNBC that the ouster campaign was being driven by anti-immigrant conservatives who oppose Democratic policies.
The governor’s commitment could help mend ties with women of color, who will be an influential bloc of voters in his bid to defeat a recall Allison said Newsom’s statement will go a long way to making up ground with those who were disappointed by his pick to replace Harris.
“We were very disappointed in initially not getting a hearing from the governor,” she said. “But he’s responding to the national outcry and the national need … He’s basically telling Black women in California and across the country that we matter, that we should be in the Senate — and that he will make that happen.”
Benjamin Din contributed to this report.