Newsom’s Feinstein Seat Choice Under Fire

( – In an op-ed on Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Emily Hoeven blasted California Governor Gavin Newsom over his decision to appoint Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler to replace the late Dianne Feinstein in the Senate, describing the governor’s handling of the situation as “a highlight reel of his political flaws.”

According to Hoeven, Newsom’s first blunder was painting himself into a corner by vowing to appoint a black woman. To that end, she writes, Newsom focused solely on Butler’s personal “biography,” namely that she is a black lesbian. As a result, Newsom overlooked the fact that California’s newest senator resides and is registered to vote, not in California but in Maryland.

The governor’s office immediately assured reporters that Butler still owns a home in California and will change her voter registration from Maryland to the state she is supposed to represent in the Senate.

Hoeven argues that Newsom’s singleminded focus on Butler’s “demographic characteristics” like her skin color and sexual orientation amounts to “tokenization.”

But as Hoeven notes, Newsom committed to appointing a black woman when Feinstein’s health and mental issues first became a concern in 2021. At the time, it was believed that Newsom’s promise was prompted by the anger he faced from Democrats in 2021 when he failed to replace Kamala Harris with a black woman and chose his long-time ally Alex Padilla instead.

It also angered California Democrats that Newsom was promising to replace Feinstein at all when Senator Feinstein was still alive and remained adamant about finishing her term. Former speaker Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Christine at the time blasted Newsom on Twitter, saying Newsom’s promise to appoint a black woman to a seat that wasn’t vacant was a “very bad look.”

Faced with criticism, Newsom walked back his remarks.

To make matters worse, just a few weeks before Senator Feinstein died, Newsom said if he did have to appoint a replacement for the senator, he would choose someone who isn’t currently running for the seat in 2024 as an “interim appointment.” This infuriated California Rep. Barbara Lee, a black woman. Lee is one of the Democrats vying for Feinstein’s seat in 2024.

For a second time, Newsom was forced to walk back his remarks.

Hoeven concludes her op-ed by suggesting that Newsom’s bumbling mistakes should be a cautionary tale to anyone who views the California Democrat as “the vanguard” of the party and a possible presidential candidate.

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