US Rep. Lee Criticizes Newsom’s Choice to Replace Dianne Feinstein

US Rep. Lee Criticizes Newsom’s Choice to Replace Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in Washington on July 27, 2023. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

9/12/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee is “troubled” by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to replace outgoing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) with a caretaker if she resigns before the end of her term, the Democrat said on Sept. 10.
Ms. Lee, who’s running to replace the longtime senator, criticized the governor in a series of social media posts for reiterating his decision not to appoint any candidates running for the senator’s seat in 2024.
“I am troubled by the Governor’s remarks,” Ms. Lee said. “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.”
Ms. Feinstein announced in February her intention to retire at the end of her term on Jan. 3, 2025.  Two years ago, Mr. Newsom said in an interview with MSNBC that he intended to nominate a black woman for the U.S. Senate if Ms. Feinstein resigned from the seat she has held since 1992.
“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,” Ms. Lee said in a thread of statements.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Dec. 8, 2021. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Dec. 8, 2021. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

On Sept. 10, Mr. Newsom told Chuck Todd during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would stick by his earlier pledge to fill the seat with a temporary appointment.
“I don’t want to make another appointment,” Mr. Newsom told Mr. Todd. “I don’t want to get involved in the primary. It would be completely unfair.”
The governor faced some backlash in 2021 after declining to choose a black woman to fill Kamala Harris’s Senate seat after she was elected as vice president. Instead, he chose his longtime ally Alex Padilla, who was serving as California secretary of state at the time.
Ms. Lee has been mentioned in the media as the possible replacement if Ms. Feinstein resigns.

Still Serving

The issue could be moot, though, as Ms. Feinstein isn’t considering resigning, according to her Washington office. She’s recently been at the Capitol and continued to participate and vote.
“She intends to serve out the remainder of her term,” her spokesman, Adam Russell, told The Epoch Times.
Ms. Feinstein, 90, is the oldest and longest-serving U.S. senator and member of Congress. Her ongoing health battles and frequent absences have prompted constituents and several officials from across the political spectrum to call for her resignation.
In May, Ms. Feinstein spent time in the hospital for an apparent shingles outbreak and was absent from the Senate for two months following the illness.
Last month, the senator returned briefly to the hospital after she reportedly fell at home.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is assisted to a wheelchair by staff as she returns to the Senate after a months-long absence, at the Capitol on May 10, 2023. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is assisted to a wheelchair by staff as she returns to the Senate after a months-long absence, at the Capitol on May 10, 2023. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

When she returned, she was in a wheelchair and appeared frail and confused. Her staff was also overheard telling the senator how to vote in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in July.
Ms. Feinstein has given her daughter, Katherine Feinstein, power of attorney in court filings.

Age on the Ballot

Ms. Feinstein’s precarious condition and President Joe Biden’s recent trouble with falling and difficulty speaking in public, along with concerns about Sen. Mitch McConnell, 81, who has frozen during two media appearances, has shined a spotlight on the issue of aging politicians.
If elected, Ms. Lee would be 78 years old when she takes office, reaching 84 at the end of her six-year term.
Ms. Lee, however, is running behind two other well-known Democratic candidates for the senate seat—Rep. Adam Schiff, 63, and Rep. Katie Porter, 49.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) speaks during John Durham’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington on June 21, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) speaks during John Durham’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington on June 21, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

A poll by the University of California–Berkeley released on Sept. 7 shows Mr. Schiff in the lead with 20 percent, followed by Ms. Porter at 17 percent, but one in three likely voters remain undecided.
Ms. Lee tied Republicans Steve Garvey, 74, and James Bradley, 66, in the poll. All received 7 percent of the vote. Republican Eric Early trailed the top three candidates, capturing 5 percent.
The poll, conducted between Aug. 24 and Aug. 29, asked 6,030 California registered voters who they were likely to vote for in the March 2024 primary election.
The survey also asked voters their opinion about Ms. Feinstein’s replacement if she were unable to finish her term.
Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) speaks in Irvine, Calif., on Oct. 14, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) speaks in Irvine, Calif., on Oct. 14, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

More than half—51 percent—said they would prefer Mr. Newsom to nominate someone prepared to run for a full term next year rather than make an interim appointee who wouldn’t seek reelection, according to the poll.
“While most Californians prefer that Newsom appoint a successor to Feinstein who will run for the full-term, if put in this position the Governor’s political calculus is complicated,” University of California–Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies co-director Eric Schickler said in a statement. “With three well-known and well-liked Democrats vying for the seat, appointing a likely successor would divide the Governor’s supporters.”
Ms. Lee’s campaign office didn’t return requests for comment by press time.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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