IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Rep. Lee slams Gov. Newsom's new conditions for appointing a Black senator

California's governor has said he would appoint a Black woman to fill Sen. Dianne Feinstein's seat if she resigns — but it won't be Lee, who's currently running for the position.


California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" irked Rep. Barbara Lee — and with good reason. 

Newsom was asked about his previous vow to appoint a Black woman to fill Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's seat should she step down before her term ends in 2025. The governor said he doesn't want to make an appointment, yet doubled down on his vow to seat a Black woman in what host Chuck Todd described as a temporary "caretaker" role. But he said appointing someone currently in the running for Senate — such as Lee — would be unfair to her opponents and "the people of California," who the governor claimed "don't want me to make another appointment."

The math seems pretty simple here. If Newsom gets an opportunity to appoint someone, the appointee would be a Black woman who isn’t running for Senate, likely doesn’t want to at this present time, and wouldn’t be serving for long. In other words, it’d be one way for Newsom to perform allyship with Black women without doing anything to actually shore up their Senate power in the long run. 

Recent polling shows Lee trailing Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter — both of whom are white — in the Senate race, most likely a result of her opponents’ funding advantage. And Lee slammed Newsom’s tokenism on Sunday. 

“I am troubled by the Governor’s remarks," she tweeted. "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 continued:

The perspective of Black women in the US Senate is sorely needed — and needed for more than a few months. Governor Newsom knows this, which is why he made the pledge in the first place.

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 makes a valid point. Newsom said he doesn't want to be unfair to Lee's opponents and "the people," but I’d argue he was going to have to place his own desire for diversity over the will of voters anyway if he was to follow through with his vow. It’s no secret that whomever he appointed to Feinstein’s seat — in this hypothetical scenario — would have the power of incumbency come election time. 

What Lee is speaking to is a belief that she, I and some other Black folks had, as well: that Newsom wanted to bestow this power upon a Black woman because he thought they deserved it. To be clear, this would have been a radical act — although I believe it would have been a radical and righteous one. 

Regardless, it looks like Newsom is vowing to squander the opportunity should it arise.