Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has died at 90.
Hospitalization for shingles and other health problems led to her prolonged absence from the Senate in early 2023 and an inconsistent voting record when she returned in May. California’s longest-serving senator announced that she planned to retire at the end of her term in 2024.
The 17th Amendment sets out the rules for how Feinstein will be replaced in the Senate:
When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
That means Gov. Gavin Newsom will have the opportunity to select Feinstein’s replacement until the next election.
Newsom said in 2021 that he would nominate a black woman to fill Feinstein’s seat.
However, he more recently said that he would merely be nominating an “interim” candidate and wouldn’t get involved in the Democratic primary.
Some Democrats have voiced unhappiness with Newsom’s position.
Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat considered a leading candidate to replace Feinstein, blasted Newsom on X, formerly know as Twitter.
“I am troubled by the Governor’s remarks,” she wrote in early September. “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.”
The last Republican senator in California, John Seymour, was appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1991. Wilson was also a Republican.
Claifornia’s other senator, Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat, was also appointed by Newsom when Kamala Harris became vice president and vacated her seat in 2021.
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