California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday committed to nominating a black woman to replace Senator Dianne Feinstein should she retire before her term expires.
The Democratic governor was asked on MSNBC whether he would nominate an African-American woman for Feinstein’s seat since the Senate’s only other black woman, Vice President Kamala Harris, is no longer in the upper chamber.
“We have multiple names in mind, and the answer is yes,” Newsom told MSNBC’s Joy Reid.
.@joyannreid: "If Dianne Feinstein were to retire, will you nominate an African American woman to restore the seat that Kamala Harris is no longer in the Senate? And do you have a name in mind?"@gavinnewsom: "We have multiple names in mind, the answer is yes."#TheReidOut pic.twitter.com/SrQ5iGKeNM
— The ReidOut (@thereidout) March 15, 2021
Feinstein, 87, is the oldest sitting U.S. senator and is serving her fifth full Senate term, which is up in 2025. She was first elected to the chamber when she won a 1992 special election.
She served as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat from 2017 until this year, when she stepped down after criticism from fellow Democrats of her handling of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings.
Feinstein had publicly thanked and complimented then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham on the hearings, raising the hackles of some progressive Democrats who aggressively opposed Barrett’s nomination to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s seat.
“This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in,” she said as the last of the confirmation hearing sessions concluded.
“I will continue to do my utmost to bring about positive change in the coming years,” Feinstein said in a statement in November when she announced her decision not to seek the powerful committee position in the next Congress.
Newsom faced criticism earlier this year when he did not nominate a black woman to replace Harris as California’s other senator but instead chose Alex Padilla, then California’s secretary of state and the Golden State’s first Latino senator.
“The son of Mexican immigrants — a cook and house cleaner — Alex Padilla worked his way from humble beginnings to the halls of MIT, the Los Angeles City Council and the State Senate, and has become a national defender of voting rights as California’s Secretary of State,” Newsom said in December. “Now, he will serve in the halls of our nation’s Capitol as California’s next United States Senator.”
Harris is the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants and was elected in 2016 as only the second black woman to serve in the Senate.
Newsom is currently weathering his sixth recall campaign as California governor. Just hours before Newsom’s remarks promising to nominate a black woman to Feinstein’s seat, two of California’s most influential black leaders, Reps. Barbara Lee of Oakland and Karen Bass of Los Angeles, held a press conference defending him and vowing to fight the recall effort.
The recall initiative was launched by Republicans in response to Newsom’s handling of the pandemic and has attracted the support of the state GOP as well as the Republican National Committee. Organizers of the recall effort say they already have the 1.5 million valid signatures they need to submit to the secretary of state’s office by March 17 in order to trigger a recall election.
“I won’t be distracted by this partisan, Republican recall — but I will fight it,” Newsom wrote in a Monday tweet. “There is too much at stake.”
Newsom was also lambasted by critics in November after he was photographed attending a mask-less party with lobbyists at the French Laundry, a chic restaurant in California’s Napa Valley.
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