How will California Gov. Newsom pick Kamala Harris' replacement? Ethnicity, electability, experience?

By Lara Korte and Kim Bojórquez, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Political News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — To say that Gov. Gavin Newsom is under pressure is an understatement.

The chance to appoint someone to the U.S. Senate does not come along often. It has happened only a handful of times before in the state, most recently in 1991, and it represents an opportunity to install an official that could serve in one of the most powerful government bodies for, potentially, decades. The governor must name a successor to the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate and the first woman to ever be elected vice president.

It's a historic appointment, and everybody has an idea of who they want to fill the spot.

Some political leaders are calling for the next senator to be a Black woman, such as U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee or Karen Bass. Others want an LGBTQ appointment. Newsom faces particular pressure to appoint California's first Latino to the U.S. Senate. Latino elected officials and leaders from Latino progressive groups this week told the governor that the state is "long overdue" for a Latino senator, especially given that Latinos represent a plurality in the state.

"He's going to consider all of those kinds of things in his general list," said Bill Carrick, a longtime Democratic political consultant who has managed Sen. Dianne Feinstein's campaigns since the 1990s. "But it's probably going to be about who he thinks is best prepared to do the job."

"My sense is that he's going to look at somebody who has serious experience in elected office," Carrick added.


Harris' tenure in the Senate has been short compared to those of Feinstein, who has served since 1992, and former Sen. Barbara Boxer, who served for 24 years before retiring in 2017. But even during her short stay, the vice president-elect has been able to garner attention for her work on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.

Harris' experience as District Attorney of San Francisco and then California's Attorney General influenced her appointment to those spots, Carrick said. Feinstein has also long held a spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and was the first woman to do so.

"So it's those considerations about whether somebody should make history with what they do," Carrick said.

Newsom is likely to choose someone with experience in winning statewide races, said Garry South, a California political consultant who has served under two governors and ran Newsom's first gubernatorial campaign in 2008.


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