Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom of California announced in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would not appoint any of the three high-profile Democrats vying to replace retiring Senator Dianne Feinstein if her seat becomes vacant sooner than expected. Instead, he would make an interim appointment. Newsom’s decision could be a disappointment to Representative Barbara Lee, who was believed to be his first choice before entering the Senate race and is currently trailing behind better-known and better-funded opponents Representative Adam Schiff and Representative Katie Porter in polls.
Newsom stated that he does not want to get involved in the primary and wants to avoid tipping the balance for the Democrats who have been working hard for the upcoming primary. The March 5 all-party primary will determine the top two vote-getters of any party who will advance to the November general election. A recent poll from the University of California, Berkeley, showed Schiff and Porter running at 20% and 17% respectively, while Lee trailed at 7%. Feinstein has resisted calls to resign, but questions about her ability to fulfill her duties have resurfaced due to her declining health and a family dispute over her late husband’s estate.
Newsom is reluctant to fill another Senate vacancy after appointing Senator Alex Padilla to fill Vice President Kamala Harris’ seat, facing criticism for replacing the only Black woman in the Senate with a Latino man. Newsom has pledged to appoint a Black woman to any future vacancies. Although Lee was initially seen as the potential candidate, Newsom suggested that she may no longer be the prospective appointee. However, the new Berkeley IGS poll indicates that California voters, and particularly Democrats, would prefer Newsom to appoint someone prepared to run for a full term rather than a caretaker. Despite calls for Feinstein to step aside, Newsom defended her and acknowledged that her staff is handling much of her workload while she remains less active.