Gavin Newsom will only appoint ‘interim’ replacement for Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat if she steps down

California gov doesn’t want to interfere in election for her successor amid calls for 90 year old’s resignation

Alex Woodward
Sunday 10 September 2023 16:37 BST
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Gavin Newsom will only appoint 'interim' Feinstein replacement if necessary

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California Governor Gavin Newsom will only appoint an “interim” replacement for US Senator Dianne Feinstein if she steps down from office before finishing her term, not looking to the three Democratic candidates vying for an election to replace her.

The governor likely will not appoint any of them, including current US Rep Barbara Lee, widely speculated as Mr Newsom’s choice to fill a potential vacancy after he had indicated that he would appoint a Black woman to the seat.

Fellow Democratic US Reps Adam Schiff and Katie Porter are also lining up for the seat currently held by Ms Feinstein, 90, who has refused to step down following calls for her resignation after a series of health incidents. Her term ends in January 2025.

Mr Newsom told NBC’s Meet the Press on 10 September that he doesn’t want to get involved with the primary race.

“Interim appointment,” 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.”

Should Ms Feinstein step down before her term expires, a replacement appointed by the governor to serve the remainder of her term could presumably get a leg up over other candidates. The governor had previously picked current US Senator Alex Padilla to fill a seat vacated by now-Vice President Kamala Harris after she joined President Joe Biden’s administration. Mr Newsom said he doesn’t want to make another, “and I don’t think the people of California want me to make another appointment,” he added.

“We hope we never have to make this decision, but I abide by what I’ve said very publicly on a consistent basis,” said Mr Newsom when asked whether he will commit to his pledge to appoint a Black woman.

Following Ms Harris’s departure, no Black woman is serving in the upper chamber of Congress.

A recent poll from the Institute of Government Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, found Reps Schiff and Porter polling at roughly 20 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively, with Rep Lee trailing at 7 per cent. Roughly one-third of respondents remain undecided.

Meanwhile, a majority of California voters would prefer that Mr Newsom appoint someone who is prepared to serve a full term, not just a caretaker role before another election, according to the Berkeley poll.

That demand is more pronounced among Democratic voters – 60 per cent want Mr Newsom to appoint someone who will run for a fuller term in 2024, while only 16 per cent prefer an interim appointee.

Mr Newsom told Meet the Press that he retains productive working relationships with both Mr Padilla’s and Ms Feinstein’s offices.

Following at least two freezing incidents, 81-year-old Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also has faced calls from members of both parties for the longtime GOP tactician to step down, as far-right members of Congress who support Donald Trump point to the Kentucky senator’s latest health issues to renew their demands for his departure.

The longest-serving party leader in US history has pledged to finish his term.

Louisiana US Senator Bill Cassidy told Meet the Press on Sunday that the GOP leader, who has largely brushed off questions about his recent incidents, has handled questions about his health “perfectly.”

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