Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s passing leaves California with a vacant seat in the United States Senate as well as the legacy of a woman who broke glass ceilings.
Feinstein, who was 90 years old, had around 15 months left in her tenure when she passed away.
How will Feinstein’s replacement be chosen?
According to California law, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has the sole discretion to fill that seat with an appointee, who will hold office until a senator is chosen by the people to fill the position.
Newsom has made it apparent that he intends to select someone who would serve as an interim replacement and that he will appoint a Democrat, but it is unclear which one.
A Black woman would be appointed to Feinstein’s position, as Newsom promised to do earlier this month on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” though he added that he hoped he wouldn’t have to make that choice. However, Newsom has also stated that he will not appoint one of the Democrats running to succeed Feinstein in the 2024 race, claiming that doing so would be “completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off.” Reps. Barbara Lee, Adam Schiff, and Katie Porter, among others, entered the campaign after Feinstein declared earlier this year that she would not run again, so it would appear to disqualify them from the discussion.
Lee reacted angrily to Newsom’s conversation with NBC’s Chuck Todd earlier this month when Todd asked Newsom, “But you’re gonna abide by — it would be essentially a caretaker, an African American woman?” Newsom replied, “Yes.”
In the interview, Newsom added, “We hope we never have to make this decision, but I abide by what I’ve said very publicly and on a regular basis, yeah.
According to Lee, “the idea that a Black woman should be appointed only as a caretaker to simply check a box is insulting to the countless Black women across this country who have carried the Democratic Party to victory election after election.”
Newsom statement on Feinstein’s death
In a statement Friday morning, Newsom praised Feinstein and referred to her as “a political giant.”
Dianne Feinstein was a number of things, including a strong, pioneering U.S. Senator, a pioneer in the fight for gun regulation, and a strong voice in times of sorrow and anarchy. But to me, she was a close friend, a mentor for life, and an example of what a strong, capable leader should be for my wife and girls as well, Newsom said. She overcame obstacles and broke down glass ceilings, but she never lost faith in the spirit of political cooperation. She was also a fighter for the places she loved, including her city, state, and country.
Although Feinstein’s replacement was not mentioned in his remarks, there has long been a possibility that she could pass away while still in office.
Shirley Weber, the state’s secretary of state and a 75-year-old Black woman who previously served in the California State Assembly, might take Feinstein’s seat.
A second U.S. senator’s appointment has caused some resistance in Newsom.
Sen. Alex Padilla was the first appointment he made after Kamala Harris was named vice president.
In an interview with NBC earlier this month, Newsom stated, “I don’t want to make another appointment, and I don’t think the people of California want me to make another appointment.
It is anticipated that Feinstein’s office will continue to operate virtually unhindered. Widely regarded as adept, Feinstein’s staff has long carried the weight of the office as the senator battled health concerns. This month, Newsom referred to her team as being “still extraordinarily active.”