Dem Senate Hopeful Slams Newsom Over Feinstein Plan
California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California on May 2, 2023.
(Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) fired back at California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday after he indicated he would pick another black woman to step in as interim caretaker if Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is unable to complete her term.

In a statement posted to X, Lee, who is one of three House Democrats running to succeed Feinstein in 2024, said she is “troubled” by Newsom stating that he would stick to his plan of appointing a black woman — but in a way that would not give any particular candidate an edge in the upcoming election.

“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,” Lee said from her campaign account.

“If the Governor intends to keep his promise and appoint a Black woman to the Senate, the people of California deserve the best possible person for that job. Not a token appointment,” she added. “Black women deserve more than a participation trophy. We need a seat at the table.”

Newsom pledged in March 2021 that he would appoint a black woman to sit in for Feinstein if the senator retired early, which has led some Democrats to advocate for Lee to get chosen. Feinstein, the oldest sitting senator at the age of 90, has faced health issues over the past few years and calls to step down. Feinstein refuses to retire but announced in February she would not seek re-election in 2024.

During an interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that aired on Sunday, Newsom said he did not want to make “another” appointment after he picked Alex Padilla to replace Kamala Harris as senator when she left that office to become vice president. Padilla went on to be elected in 2022 to finish the term he was dealt and to serve a full term that ends in 2029.


When pressed on whether he would commit to his pledge related to Feinstein, Newsom said he would stick to his promise with an “interim appointment” and insisted that he did not “want to get involved” in his party’s primary contest. “It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off. That primary is just a matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance of that,” he added.

Three prominent House Democrats announced campaigns to replace Feinstein in the Senate after she announced her plan to retire at the end of her current term: Reps. Lee, Adam Schiff, and Katie Porter. Lee is the only black woman among them. Recent polling shows Schiff and Porter ahead of Lee and others in the contest.

“There are currently no Black women serving in the Senate. Since 1789, there have only been two Black woman Senators, who have served a total of 10 years,” Lee said in her post to X. “The perspective of Black women in the US Senate is sorely needed — and needed for more than a few months. Governor Newsom knows this, which is why he made the pledge in the first place.”

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