Rep. Barbara Lee Blasts Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom On His Plan For U.S. Senate Seat

His plan ‘is insulting to countless Black women,’ the Oakland Democrat says.

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, says she’s insulted by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to appoint a Black woman as a caretaker if Sen. Dianne Feinstein leaves office before her term ends in 2025.

As questions swirl about Feinstein’s health, Newsom appeared Sunday (Sep. 10) on NBC’s Meet the Press and confirmed his pledge to fill an early Senate vacancy with a Black woman – who wouldn’t be Lee or any other candidate running to replace the 90-year-old senator because it would give that candidate an advantage in the general election.

"It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off. The primary is just a matter of months away. I don't want to tip the balance of that." Newsom told host Chuck Todd.

Lee, the only Black woman running for Feinstein’s seat, blasted Newsom’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," Lee said, according to CBS News, adding that there are no Black women currently serving in the Senate.

“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."

The Washington Post reports that an appointment to the Senate would boost Lee’s standing in the Senate race, as she’s polling behind fellow Democrats U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. Lee joined the Senate race in February.

Rep. Barbara Lee Files Paperwork to Possibly Run for Seat of Retiring Senator Dianne Feinstein

Oprah Winfrey’s name had bubbled to the top of possible Black women to fill Feinstein’s seat temporarily, but the media mogul has reportedly ruled out accepting an appointment.

Feinstein was elected to the Senate in 1992 and is currently the longest-serving woman senator ever. Previously, the veteran politician served for nine years, starting in 1969, as San Francisco County supervisor and became the city’s first woman mayor in 1978. In February, Feinstein announced that she won’t seek reelection in 2024.

Her current health condition is unclear. Feinstein’s senate office confirmed on May 18 that her health situation is more complicated than the senator had previously stated. She experienced broader complications following a shingles diagnosis. The complications “included Ramsay Hunt syndrome and encephalitis,” the office revealed.

According to the Mayo Clinic, encephalitis is inflammation of the brain. Ramsay Hunt syndrome occurs when a shingles outbreak affects the facial nerve near one of your ears, which can cause facial paralysis and hearing loss in the affected ear.

When Vice President Kamala Harris stepped down from the Senate to become vice president, Newsom yielded to pressure from his Latino supporters to replace her with a Latino, which he did by appointing then-Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Newsom then vowed that if Feinstein resigned early from the Senate, he would select a Black woman to replace her, ostensibly to make up for not choosing a Black woman to replace Harris.

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