Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee Slams Gavin Newsom Over Potential ‘Token’ Senate Appointment

(Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Demand Justice)

Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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Democratic California Rep. Barbara Lee criticized Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom for vowing to appoint a black woman to replace a soon-to-be departing senator.

Newsom appears poised to appoint a black woman to replace Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein if she were to resign from her position over her health issues. Feinstein, 90, spent days in the hospital in March due to her shingles diagnosis and continues to suffer several health implications as a result.

Lee, a black woman, is running for the Senate seat in California, which will be vacant in January 2025 since Feinstein will not run for re-election. She said Newsom is insulting black women by intentionally using them as a “participation trophy.”

“I am troubled by the governor’s remarks,” Lee said in a Sunday statement. “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.”

“There are currently no Black women serving in the Senate. Since 1789, there have only been two Black woman Senators, who have served a total of 10 years,” Lee 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.” (RELATED: Dem Rep. Barbara Lee Announces Run For California Senate Seat) 

“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 added. “Black women deserve more than a participation trophy. We need a seat at the table.”

NBC News’ Chuck Todd told Newsom the appointment of Feinstein’s possible replacement “would essentially be a caretaker,” but Newsom didn’t describe the prospected appointee that way, according to The Hill. Newsom said the appointment of a senator would be unfair to the candidates running, but will pick Feinstein’s replacement if necessary.

Newsom confirmed he would not appoint any candidate running for the seat, including Lee, according to The Hill.

Feinstein has appeared mentally confused and in poor physical shape since returning to the Senate in May after a two-month absence. Upon entering the Senate chamber during her return, the elderly senator reportedly asked, “Where am I going?” while staffers wheeled her into the Capitol building.

The shingles virus reportedly spread to Feinstein’s face and neck, causing a facial paralysis known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Her illness also caused a previous undisclosed case of encephalitis, a rare development from shingles.