Embattled California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall vote after more than 2 million state residents signed a petition, is vowing to appoint a black woman to the Senate if career politician Sen. Dianne Feinstein resigns her seat before the end of her term.
Feinstein, 87, has filed the initial Federal Election Commission paperwork needed to seek reelection in 2024, when she will be 91.
In an appearance on MSNBC on Monday, host Joy Reid asked Newsom whether he would commit to naming a black woman to the Senate should Feinstein step down.
Newsom replied: "I have multiple names in mind. We have multiple names in mind – and the answer is yes."
But Feinstein dismissed the comments, telling reporters Tuesday that she plans to serve her full term.
"I don't think he meant that the way some people thought," the senator said. "You're making a mountain out of a molehill."
When former Sen. Kamala Harris was elected vice president, she was the only black woman in the Senate. But Newsom appointed Alex Padilla, California's secretary of state, to refill the seat. Padilla became the first Latino to represent the state in the Senate.
There is growing displeasure over Feinstein among fellow Democrats. Among their concerns is whether she's still physically and mentally up to the task. Other concerns include whether her brand of politics is outdate and progressive enough. A flashpoint occurred last fall when Feinstein publicly thanking Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham for what she considered him doing a good job in leading the Senate confirmation hearing for now-Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
A story in Politico at about the time include the passage: "Feinstein sometimes gets confused by reporters’ questions, or will offer different answers to the same question depending on where or when she’s asked. Her appearance is frail. And Feinstein's genteel demeanor, which seems like it belongs to a bygone Senate era, can lead to trouble with an increasingly hard-line Democratic base uninterested in collegiality or bipartisan platitudes."
Talk of Feinstein's retirement is also swirling as Newsom faces recall. If a Republican were to win a subsequent gubernatorial election, Feinstein's seat could be filled with a Republican.
On the recall, Newsom said this week it's all part of a vast right-wing conspiracy.
"And let’s just call it what it is: it’s a partisan, Republican recall – backed by the RNC, anti-mask and anti-vax extremists, and pro-Trump forces that want to overturn the last election and have opposed much of what we have done to fight the pandemic," said the governor, referring to the Republican National Committee.
"If they are successful, it would mean risking the progress we are making to end the pandemic," Newsom wrote in an email to supporters. "We can’t let that happen."
He also said he will not take the recall effort against him "lying down" and urged his supporters to sign a different petition to oppose the "far-right Republican recall effort."
Randy Economy, a spokesman for the Recall Gavin 2020 campaign, told Fox News that the governor calling the effort part of an extremist movement was "pathetic."
"Gavin Newsom is resorting to political desperation. He now, finally, has accepted the fact that there will be a recall election being held this year to decide the direction of California and his political fate," Economy said. "For him to continue to label the people’s campaign as extremist is sad, pathetic and just goes to show how out of touch he really is."