by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
No one on the right had high expectations for California governor Gavin Newsom’s selection of the replacement for Senator Dianne Feinstein. The selection was inevitably going to be a progressive Democrat, and was likely to bring to the chamber some combination of the eloquence of Kamala Harris, the bipartisan goodwill of Barbara Boxer, the sparkling personality of Gray Davis, and the fresh face of Nancy Pelosi.
But somehow Newsom managed to dive below the low expectations and make a hash of things every step of the way.
Back in March 2021, when Feinstein was still insisting she intended to finish her term, Newsom pledged to select a black woman to replace her someday, making clear that his top requirements for the selection were skin color and gender. Even some of Newsom’s usual allies found this pandering ham-fisted, and more than a little insulting to Feinstein, just short of talking about her in past tense.
Then this September, Newsom promised that the person he selected would be an interim appointment and that the appointed senator would not run for a full term. “I don’t want to get involved in the primary,” Newsom told Chuck Todd on Meet the Press. “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.”
But one of the three top Democrats running for the seat in 2024, Representative Barbara Lee, objected: “I am troubled by the governor’s remarks. 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.”