Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) exploded on Golden State Gov. Gavin Newsom after he ruled out picking anyone running for Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat to finish her term if the 90-year-old is unable to complete her service.
Newsom publicly promised in 2021 to select a black woman to take Feinstein’s place if the ailing nonagenarian was forced to step down before January 2025.
But with Lee running in a packed, expensive, and contentious Senate primary, Newsom modified his vow in an interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday.
“I don’t want to get involved in the primary,” he said. “It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off. That primary is just a matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance of that.”
Lee responded with a statement saying that she was “troubled” by Newsom’s remarks.
“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,” she wrote.
“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 added.
“Black women deserve more than a participation trophy. We need a seat at the table,” continued Lee, who has represented her Bay Area district since 1998.
While there are no black women currently serving in the Senate, there are three black men: Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tim Scott (R-SC).
Only two black women have ever sat in the upper chamber: Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois and current Vice President Kamala Harris, a former senator from California.
Newsom spokesperson Anthony York said Lee was venting over “a hypothetical on top of a hypothetical.”
“There is no vacancy for any US Senate seat, nor does the Governor anticipate there will be one,” York said. “Voters will have their say on who should replace Senator Feinstein when they go to the polls less than six months from now.”
Lee is squaring off against Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.) in the primary contest.
Under California’s system, the top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election, regardless of party. Back in 2016, the November showdown pitted Harris against then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.).
Meanwhile, Feinstein, who is older than the chocolate chip cookie, has triggered concern about her ability to serve after a series of health scares and bouts of confusion.
Earlier this summer, an aide and a colleague had to prompt Feinstein to vote “aye” on the annual defense spending bill.
She is the oldest sitting member in either chamber of Congress.