California Gov. Gavin Newsom confirmed on Sunday that he is prepared to appoint an “interim” replacement for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., if she leaves office early.
Newsom made the statement during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. The ailing Feinstein has confirmed that she will not run for re-election in 2024, but speculation about her health has raised questions about whether she will remain in office until her current term ends.
Newsom says he will not pick any of the current candidates running to replace her as the interim appointee, however, much to the chagrin of Rep. Barbara Lee, who had been widely considered Newsom’s top pick for the role.
“Yes. Interim appointment. I don’t want to get involved in the primary,” Newsom told host Chuck Todd. “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.”
Several prominent Democrats have already announced their candidacy to replace Feinstein in the 2024 elections. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is among the most well-funded candidates, while Lee has been trailing in polls.
Newsom pledged earlier in his tenure that his next interim appointment to the Senate would be a black woman. Lee fits the bill, but she has now been disqualified thanks to the governor’s pledge not to pick a current candidate for Feinstein’s seat.
Lee lashed out at Newsom on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday night.
“I am troubled by the Governor’s remarks,” 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.”
Newsom said he hopes he does not need to appoint a replacement for Feinstein, however. Her term officially ends in January 2025. Newsom already handpicked California’s other senator, Alex Padilla, as an interim replacement for Vice President Harris.
“I don’t want to make another appointment, and I don’t think the people of California want me to make another appointment,” Newsom said Sunday.