California Gov. Gavin Newsom is tasked with appointing a successor to finish the rest of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein's term, and Democrats want him to make his decision soon so the caucus can be at full strength ahead of crucial government funding votes. The governor previously said he would not pick any of the candidates running in the 2024 contest to succeed Feinstein, who announced her retirement in February.
Newsom pledged in 2021 that he'd appoint a Black woman as senator if he were ever tasked with filling this post, a promise that came months after he chose a Latino man, Alex Padilla, to replace Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in California's other Senate seat. (No Black woman has served in the upper chamber since Harris joined the Biden administration.)
The governor reiterated that pledge less than three weeks before Feinstein died, telling NBC's Chuck Todd, "I abide by what I’ve said very publicly." However, he also agreed with Todd that he'd make an "interim appointment" should the need arise, declaring, "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." That announcement came as unwelcome news to Rep. Barbara Lee, who is the only Black woman waging a serious campaign to replace Feinstein.
Under California law all the candidates will compete in the March top-two primary: The two with the most votes, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election. Recent polls have shown two other Democratic House members, Adam Schiff and Katie Porter, taking the two general election spots, with Lee in third place or below. Politico reports that state election officials are still determining if a special election for the remainder of Feinstein's term will need to take place concurrent with the regularly scheduled races for the full six-year term.