As Sen. Kamala Harris begins her transition into the role of vice president, the pressure is mounting for California Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill her open seat with a candidate who represents an intersectional and diverse background.
Newsom and his family are under a quarantine mandate due to his children being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, which means the California lawmaker will have ample amount of time to parse over the decision.
“We are working through the cattle call of considerations. I want to make sure it’s inclusive, I want to make sure that we are considerate of people’s points of views,” he told reporters earlier this month.
But on several fronts, there remains a push for Newsom to fill the vacancy with either another Black woman, a Latino person, or a candidate from the LGBTQ+ community. Latino advocacy groups feel there should be representation as the state has a large Latino population and would also advance the career of progressive politicians who would make history if appointed. And as we know, LGBTQ+ community members are underrepresented in local, state and federal politics.
Several advocacy groups feel that Newsom should continue the trajectory Harris left and elect a Black woman for the vacancy. Some of the most prominent voices include leaders of the Black Lives Matter Movement, and Willie Brown, the former San Francisco mayor and a mentor to both Harris and Newsom. A week after the election, BLM leaders issued a petition urging Newsom to appoint a Black woman.
“Kamala Harris is set to make history as the first Black woman vice president — which means her Senate seat will soon be open. Without Kamala Harris, there are no Black women in the Senate at all,” the petition reads.
“Appointing a Black woman to this seat is nonnegotiable — this must be done. Our government is about representation of the people, and as we saw in this election, Black people, and more specifically Black women, are constantly showing up for democracy.
“If there is not a single Black woman in the Senate, then the Senate is simply not a proper representation of the people,” the petition continues.
The petition lists Karen Bass, 67, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Bass represents the 37th Congressional District of California and is serving her sixth term in Congress. Bass is also allegedly being considered for the role of Health and Human Services Secretary in President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet. Barbara Lee, 74, vice-chair and founding member of the LGBT Caucus, should also be considered, according to the petition. Lee represents California’s 13th Congressional District and has served in Congress since 1998.
Bass and Lee would push frontiers to advance policy in police reform, climate control and health, topics that under the current administration have been largely ignored.
Harris made history several times throughout her political career, first as the first Black person and first woman elected district attorney of San Francisco (2004–2011) and again when she was elected attorney general of California (2011–2016). In 2018, Harris made history again as the first Black person to represent California in the Senate, and the second Black woman to be elected as a Senator, then again in early November her historic win as the first person of Black and South Asian descent to be elected vice president.