Newsom to Select an ‘Interim Appointment’ to Replace Feinstein If Her Seat Is Vacated

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
September 11, 2023Politics
Newsom to Select an ‘Interim Appointment’ to Replace Feinstein If Her Seat Is Vacated
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference in Sacramento, Calif., on Feb. 1, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California governor Gavin Newsom said he would select an “interim appointment” for Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein should her Senate seat become vacant—in consideration of the three high-profile Democrats currently running as replacements for the retiring senator’s seat.

“I don’t want to make another appointment,” Mr. Newsom said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, as he floated the idea of an interim appointee.

When pressed on whether he’d act on his authority to appoint any of the three running candidates as a successor, the California governor said he did not want to disrupt the primary.

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

Currently the oldest serving senator at 90 years of age, Sen. Feinstein has been suffering health issues after complications from a severe shingles infection left her partly paralyzed. When she returned to the Senate in a wheelchair after a two-month absence, she seemed confused, prompting at least five House Democrats to publicly suggest that she retire.

Ms. Feinstein announced in February that she would not seek re-election in 2024, but would finish her current term in office.

NTD Photo
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) escorts Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) as she arrives at the U.S. Capitol following a long absence due to health issues in Washington on May 10, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

When asked about his opinion of Feinstein stepping down, Mr. Newsom said that he is “the most subjective human being in the world on this topic.” He explained that he has known Senator Feinstein since his youth: “I interned with her in college.”

Mr. Newsom mentioned previously discussing several issues with her on the phone, including drought and water issues, vegetation management, and forest management in California.

“We’re aligned with Feinstein and her office,” he said. “Her staff is still extraordinarily active.”

Mr. Newsom also said he wasn’t keen on filling another Senate seat, having already hand-picked California’s other senator, Mr. Alex Padilla, to fill now-Vice President Kamala Harris’s Senate spot in 2020.

“I don’t want to make another appointment, and I don’t think the people of California want me to make another appointment,” Mr. Newsom said.

Mr. Newsom’s decision to use an interim replacement may come as a disappointment for African-American Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee, as the California governor promised in 2021 that if Feinstein’s seat became vacant, he would choose a black woman to replace her.

The promise came after progressives criticized Mr. Newsome for replacing Ms. Harris, the Senate’s only black woman, with a Latino man.

Rep. Lee is currently trailing in the polls against her two better-known and better-funded competitors, California Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter.

According to a Berkeley ISG poll released Thursday, Mr. Schiff leads the field with 20 percent of the support. Ms. Porter comes in second with 17 percent, while Ms. Lee currently sits at 7 percent. At the time of the poll, one in three likely voters said they were undecided.

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