Newsom said he would go with an “interim appointment,” adding that he doesn’t want to interfere with the primary slated for March 5.
“It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off,” Newsom told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in an interview broadcast Sunday. “That primary is just a matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance of that.”
Democratic candidates in the race include Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, and Lexi Reese, a former Google executive.
While speculation had been building that Newsom would pick Lee if he had to appoint a caretaker senator, his latest comments rule that out.
Lee, a Black lawmaker, has been trailing Schiff and Porter in the polls. A recent University of California Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll showed Lee in third place with 7% of the vote.
Newsom also made clear he hopes he won’t have to be put in a position to pick 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,” he said.
Newsom, though, added that he would abide by a pledge he made in 2021 to pick a Black woman to serve, after he selected Alex Padilla, a Latino man, to replace Kamala Harris once she joined the Biden administration as vice president.
There are currently no Black women serving in the Senate.
But Lee said she found Newsom’s comments troubling.
“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 wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Lee continued: “The perspective of Black women in the US Senate is sorely needed — and needed for more than a few months. Governor Newsom knows this, which is why he made the pledge in the first place.”
While Feinstein is not running for reelection, she has pledged to serve out the remainder of her current term, which expires in January 2025. The 90-year-old senator, though, has been dealing with several health challenges, raising question about her ability to carry on.
In August, she was hospitalized after suffering a fall at her San Francisco home. Feinstein was also absent from the upper chamber for two months earlier this year after receiving hospital treatment for shingles. In May, she confirmed she was dealing with complications from the virus, including Ramsay Hunt syndrome.
The senator has also given her daughter limited power of attorney, adding fuel to the concerns about her fitness to serve. A lawsuit filed on her behalf by Katherine Feinstein alleges she is a victim of financial elder abuse by the trustees overseeing her late husband’s estate.