Following the passing of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) on Friday, questions now abound about who may be appointed to her position by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had previously promised to name a black woman to the position.
Back in March of 2021, Feinstein began suffering from health complications, which prompted questions about whether or not she would be able to complete her term. At the time, Newsom promised to nominate a black woman to temporarily fill a potential vacancy in her seat.
Newsom updated that pledge on Sept. 10 of this year, saying he would only appoint someone who isn’t currently a candidate for the seat. In response, the Daily Caller posted its listing of every Democratic black woman politician in California who could be appointed based on these requirements.
At the top of that list is London Breed, the current mayor of San Francisco, a position that both Feinstein and Newsom had previously held. While Breed is running for reelection to a second full term in 2024, she is facing primary challenges from Daniel Lurie, a philanthropist and an heir to the Levi Strauss & Co. denim jeans manufacturing fortune, as well as Democratic San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who represents the 11th district.
Breed’s tenure as mayor of San Francisco has been marred by homelessness, sanitation issues, drug use, and crime running rampant throughout the city, leading to harsh criticism by Republicans and some Democrats. The number of homeless encampments in the city recently reached its highest level since 2020, and the number of opioid deaths exceeded previous records on Sept. 19.
The second potential pick is Lori Wilson, the majority whip in the California Assembly and the chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, two high-ranking positions in the state’s Democratic establishment. She currently represents areas around the state capital of Sacramento.
Wilson was a major proponent of Assembly Bill 957, which would have threatened the custodial rights of parents who disagree with their child’s transgenderism. That bill, much to Wilson’s dismay, was vetoed by Newsom, prompting a frustrated response from her and the California Legislature’s LGBTQ caucus.
“The veto … is a profound disappointment. Across this nation, transgender children are being targeted and erased,” Wilson wrote in a joint statement with the California Legislature’s LGBTQ caucus, adding “This veto is a missed opportunity to remind the nation that California is a safe haven for transgender and nonbinary children.”
Another listed possibility comes from Karen Bass, who has been mayor of Los Angeles for less than a year, having been elected in 2022. She has previously served for 11 years in Congress, including two years as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus as well as the speaker of the California General Assembly from 2008 to 2010 while in the state legislature.
However, it’s unlikely that Bass would be willing to relinquish her office for a temporary appointment to Feinstein’s former seat. A spokesperson for the mayor said she is not interested, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Senator Feinstein was a trailblazer on whose shoulders I, and women in elected office all across America, will always stand,” Bass wrote on X regarding Feinstein’s death.
It is theoretically possible that Pamela Price, the current District Attorney of Alameda County, which includes the city of Oakland and is adjacent to San Francisco, could take Feinstein’s seat, but Price is currently facing a recall effort from business groups who allege that she has failed to combat crime in the city.
“District Attorney Pamela Price has absolutely failed the people of Alameda County. Crime is spiraling out of control. It’s time to stand up for victims of crime and their families to bring justice back to Alameda County,” said Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, who has endorsed the recall effort, to CBS News.
In order for a recall election to be initiated, campaigners will need to gather 73,195 signatures from voters in Alameda County within 160 days.
The final possible candidate is Mia Bonta, who serves as representative for the 18th district in the California Assembly, which covers Alameda County. She is the wife of Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta of California.
Bonta, a black woman and member of the state legislature’s Black Caucus, is not currently seeking election to the Senate. If appointed, she would also become California’s first Hispanic woman senator, having been born to Puerto Rican parents who are the descendants of Ghanaian slaves.
“[Feinstein was] a Bay Area native who paved the way for a new generation of women leaders in California and nationwide. Her presence will be deeply missed in #AD18 and throughout the country,” Bonta wrote on X.
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