The Congressional Black Caucus is urging California Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint Rep. Barbara Lee to the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat, as Congress and the public await the Democratic governor’s choice to fulfill the remainder of her term.
In a Sunday letter to Newsom, CBC Chairman Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) argued that Lee’s progressive record makes her the ideal candidate to succeed Feinstein, the California Democrat who died last week at 90 years old. Feinstein was the longest-serving woman in the Senate, and was known for her fight against the gun lobby.
Lee’s “unparalleled legislative record, longstanding leadership in the Democratic Party, and deep commitment to justice and equality cannot be equalled,” Horsford wrote, adding that she “is the only person with the courage, the vision, and the record to eradicate poverty, face down the fossil fuel industry, defend our democracy, and tirelessly advance the progressive agenda.”
Newsom has not publicly responded to the CBC’s letter, but he has reaffirmed a pledge he made in 2021 that he would appoint a Black woman to fill any future Senate vacancies in California. He did, however, stress that he does not plan to appoint someone who intends to hold the seat permanently. That includes Lee.
Feinstein had said earlier this year that she planned to retire in 2024, leaving the race open for other Democrats to take her seat. Lee is the only Black woman running to hold the seat officially, going against Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. Both lawmakers are better funded than Lee and are beating her in the polls.
“I don’t want to get involved in the primary,” Newsom told NBC’s “Meet the Press” earlier this month. “It would be completely unfair to the Democrats who’ve worked their tails off.”
After Newsom’s comments, Lee posted on X that she was concerned about 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,” she said.
With Feinstein’s death leaving Democrats head-to-head with Republicans in the Senate ― and the Judiciary Committee without a majority ― Newsom is expected to announce an interim appointment in the coming days. The nonpartisan primary for Feinstein’s seat is on March 5, where the top two vote-getters make it to the November election.
Lee “has always done what’s right, not what’s easy ― especially during moments of crisis,” Horsford wrote. “Her values have never wavered: she is a tried and true progressive who has been effective in delivering legislation that helps working people.”