Who Will Replace Dianne Feinstein in the Senate? As California mourns the passing of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, the political landscape in the Golden State is abuzz with speculation about her now-vacant Senate seat. Feinstein’s decision not to seek re-election in 2024 had already set the stage for a competitive race to determine her successor.
However, her unexpected passing has thrust California Governor Gavin Newsom into a politically sensitive position. In this article, we delve into the complexities of this situation, the potential implications for California’s political landscape, and the governor’s pledge to appoint a Black woman to the Senate seat.
The Unplanned Vacancy and Its Consequences
Feinstein’s death necessitates Governor Newsom appointing a replacement to serve the remainder of her term. This development could significantly impact California’s upcoming Senate primary, which features prominent Democratic candidates like Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee. With a looming government shutdown, there’s growing pressure on Newsom to make a swift appointment, potentially providing Democrats with a crucial vote for spending legislation.
Newsom’s Dilemma: A Pledge Made Early
Governor Newsom’s decision is fraught with political considerations, especially given his prior appointment of Democrat Alex Padilla to Kamala Harris’s vacated Senate seat in 2020. Back then, Newsom faced backlash for replacing the Senate’s only Black woman with a Latino man. In response, he pledged to appoint a Black woman to any future vacancies, a commitment widely seen as signaling support for Barbara Lee.
However, Newsom made this promise over two years ago, long before Feinstein announced her retirement and the Senate race began. In a recent interview, Newsom clarified that he intended to make an “interim appointment,” someone not seeking re-election. Despite this, he maintained his commitment to selecting a Black woman for the role.
A Vocal Critique: Barbara Lee’s Reaction
Barbara Lee, one of the Senate race contenders, strongly objected to Newsom’s interim appointment plan, dismissing it as tokenism. She argued that the Senate needs the perspective of Black women beyond a temporary basis and that the governor’s promise should be upheld with a substantive appointment rather than a symbolic one.
Lee’s criticism surprised many, including her allies in a super PAC supporting her campaign, leading to the resignation of two Democratic operatives who also advised Newsom.
The Ongoing Political Chess Game
The appointment decision could have significant implications for the Senate race, with Schiff and Porter currently leading in polling and fundraising. Newsom has expressed frustration over the constant lobbying for Feinstein’s seat, and the outcome may impact the broader political landscape in California.
Under California’s “jungle primary” system, the two leading candidates from any party in the March primary will advance to the general election, potentially setting the stage for a Democrat-vs.-Democrat showdown in November.
Additionally, the appointment could trigger a cascade of other political moves, as candidates vie for House seats vacated by Senate hopefuls. Several names of potential Black women appointees have been floated, including Shirley Weber, London Breed, Holly Mitchell, and Lateefah Simon.
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Conclusion: A Complex Decision Ahead
As Governor Newsom prepares to announce his interim appointment for Senator Feinstein’s seat, the political stakes remain high. The decision could reshape the landscape of California politics, influence the Senate race, and determine the future of several political careers. Amidst this uncertainty, one thing is clear: the governor’s choice will be closely watched and scrutinized in the coming days, as California honors the legacy of Dianne Feinstein.
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