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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Rep. Barbara Lee says California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan for Senate seat is "insulting"

Rep. Barbara Lee, one of the Democrats running for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat next year, is blasting California Gov. Gavin Newsom after the governor said he would only make an “interim” appointment to Feinstein’s seat, selecting someone who is not running for the seat in 2024. Newsom has said he would appoint a Black woman to fill the role, and he says he still intends to do so.

Speaking to NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Newsom said he would abide by his pledge to appoint a Black woman to Feinstein’s post if it comes to that, while saying he hopes he never has to make that decision. “But you’re gonna abide by — it would be essentially a caretaker, an African-American woman?” NBC’s Chuck Todd asked.

“Uh, we hope we never have to make this decision, but I abide by what I’ve said very publicly and on a consistent basis, yes,” Newsom responded.

Lee, the only Black woman running for Feinstein’s seat, issued a statement that she is “troubled by the governor’s remarks.”

“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. “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. … 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. Black women deserve more than a participation trophy. We need a seat at the table.”

Newsom told “Meet the Press” he wouldn’t fill Feinstein’s seat with any of the California Democrats running for it.

“It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off,” Newsom said. “The primary is a just matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance of that.”

Other well-known Democrats running for Feinstein’s seat include Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. Porter was the first toannounce her bid, before Feinstein even announced she wouldn’t run for reelection.

But Newsom, who appointed Sen. Alex Padilla to his post when Kamala Harris was elected vice president, hopes he doesn’t have to appoint a replacement for Feinstein.

“No, I don’t want to make another appointment, and I don’t think the people of California want me to make another appointment,” Newsom said.

As he has in the past, Newsom said he leaves Feinstein’s decision about her future her to her. Newsom, Feinstein’s former intern, said he is the “most subjective human being in the world” on the topic of Feinstein and her future.

Newsom said it “wasn’t that long ago” that Feinstein would call him and read him the “riot act” to him on things like environmental issues. But the California governor called her staff “still extraordinarily active” and said “yes,” her staff can adequately serve his constituents.

Feinstein’s health has prompted some concern in the Senate, particularly this year.After a two-and-a-half-month absence from the Senate this spring, Feinstein appeared to not know she had been gone. “I haven’t been gone,” she said after she returned in May, according to theLos Angeles TimesandSlate. When asked whether she meant she had been working from home, Feinstein said, “No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting.”

In July, an apparently confused Feinstein began launching into her remarks during a vote on an $823 billion military budget, and had to be prompted by colleagues multiple times to simply vote “aye.”

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