The Corner

Politics & Policy

In Replacing Kamala Harris in the Senate, Gavin Newsom Is Going to Have to Disappoint Someone

The New York Times updates the world on the status of the debate over who should replace Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate:

Some Latino officials point to those [demographic] numbers and argue that the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, needs to — must, without question — appoint a Latino to the U.S. Senate, the first in California’s history.

But Black political leaders contend that Ms. Harris could not be replaced by anyone other than a Black woman. Without her, they noted, the Senate would have no Black women in the chamber.

(Notice the relative lack of discussion about who would actually be the best individual to represent the state until the next statewide election.)

Elsewhere, some liberals want the state’s other senator, Dianne Feinstein, to step down, contending she’s getting too old for her duties and she’s not combative enough. Feinstein’s resignation would give Newsom the power to select both senators representing California, which some columnists contend is “too much power for one politician.” (A truly opportunistic and race-obsessed politician would prefer Feinstein to retire early, so Newsom could select one Latino senator and one black senator, and placate both constituencies.)

The appointed senator will serve until the next regularly scheduled statewide general election in 2022. California’s statewide elections always rank among the country’s most expensive; incumbents enjoy a major advantage because of higher name ID and preexisting fundraising networks. Newsom is probably picking the person who will represent California in the U.S. Senate for many years to come.

Newsom could avoid the political headache — and leave the choice in the hands of the voters — by declaring he isn’t meant to be a kingmaker and that his selection will be a respected elder statesman figure who will not run for a full term. California has no shortage of veteran liberal Democrats who would happily vote the way Chuck Schumer wants for two years.

(Because of the potential for close votes between now and Inauguration Day, Harris will probably not resign her seat in the Senate until close to January 20. But that’s not that unusual for an incoming vice president. Al Gore resigned from the Senate on January 2, 1993; Joe Biden resigned from the Senate on January 15, 2009, and Mike Pence resigned as governor of Indiana on January 9, 2017.

Then again, Newsom may not want to leave the decision in the hands of voters, and probably prefers having an appointed senator who owes his or her Senate career to him. I’m sure the governor will get together with trusted advisors at the French Laundry soon to sort it all out.

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