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Who Will Replace Kamala Harris in the Senate?

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Kamala Harris made history this year, becoming the first woman ever elected vice president of the United States, and the first person of color to ever attain that office. But as the vice president-elect prepares for a critical role in the new Biden administration, she leaves behind another important position: a United States Senate seat for the state of California.

Though Harris has not officially resigned from her position as US Senator, she must leave her seat by January 20—Inauguration Day. That leaves California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat and close friend of Harris’s, with the duty of appointing a new senator to serve-out the remainder of her term.

Harris was first elected to the Senate in 2016, which means that whoever fills her spot will be up for election in 2022, when the 6-year term ends. Still, California is the most populous state in the Union, which means its two US senators represent more constituents than any other member of Congress. Add to that the fact that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California’s senior senator, is 87-years-old and likely to retire by the end of her current term, and the weight of Harris’s empty seat becomes clear. Whoever Newsom appoints to the role could soon become the senior senator from the country’s largest state.

That said, here’s a look at the considerations before Newsom as he handpicks Harris’s replacement.

Emphasis on Diversity

Before becoming a national figure, Harris was already a groundbreaker in California, becoming the state’s first Black or South Asian senator. And in considering the outsize role communities of color played in boosting the Biden-Harris ticket, there is intense pressure on Newsom to select a candidate who also represents California’s diversity.

Two Latino contenders are California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Mayor of Long Beach Robert Garcia. After all, nearly half of the Golden State identifies as Hispanic, even though California has never sent an Hispanic to the US Senate.

On the flip side, many have lobbied Newsom to select another Black woman to fill Harris’s spot. When Joe Biden first asked Harris to join his ticket, it was a way of recognizing the invaluable groundwork that Black women contribute to the Democratic Party in every election. And with Harris’s departure from the Senate, there will not be a single Black woman remaining in the chamber. Thus, advocates have pressed Newsom to consider either Rep. Karen Bass or Rep. Barbara Lee, both progressive veterans of the House of Representatives.

Alex Padilla

Padilla is considered the frontrunner for a variety of reasons. As Secretary of State, he is the only contender on the shortlist who has won statewide office. He is also a moderate, at least compared to the other candidates, which might be more palatable to the larger electorate.

The 47-year-old has already received a handful of endorsements, both from Latino community leaders and from Sen. Feinstein herself.

“I know him,” Feinstein recently commented to reporters. “And my sense is that he’s going to represent California very well. He’s someone I’d be very happy to work with and also bring Hispanic representation to the Senate for the first time.”

Robert Garcia

Garcia has become a notable face in the media this year, speaking out about his family’s personal challenges with COVID-19. Both his mother and stepfather died of the coronavirus, and he has criticized the Trump administration’s response to the health crisis.

The 43-year-old mayor of Long Beach said he was inspired to enter politics in 2004, when Newsom, then Mayor of San Francisco, publicly advocated for marriage equality. If appointed, Garcia would be the first openly-gay man to serve in the US Senate. (Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is the chamber’s first openly-gay woman).

Additionally, Garcia immigrated from Peru to the US when he was five, an experience shared by so many in immigrant-rich California. All of this is to say that his unique experience of the world could help him represent the lush diversity of his home state.

“What people really want in California, and across the country, is for our Congress to be reflective of the country we live in, and that’s a good thing,” Garcia told press. “I will support whoever the governor selects. I think he’s going to make a great choice.”

Karen Bass

Closing in on a decade in the US House of Representatives, Karen Bass is the Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and has made issues of racial and economic justice a focus of her career. Following the death of George Floyd this summer, Bass worked with Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker to introduce the Justice in Policing Act, which would create federal guidelines for law enforcement. Subsequently, Bass was vetted by the Biden campaign as a potential running-mate, arguably the most progressive name on his shortlist. And while Biden ultimately chose Harris as his VP, Bass could still be elevated to the position of US Senator.

Molly Watson, an activist with Let’s Keep the Seat, a group advocating for a Black woman to fill Harris’s vacancy, says that Bass would make an excellent choice. “This is a woman who has remained connected to the community,” Watson said. “She has done nothing but serve.

Barbara Lee

Yet another progressive choice, Barbara Lee has represented Oakland in Congress since 1998. In that time, she has taken up many liberal causes, including criminal justice reform and healthcare equity. This month, she was a sponsor on the MORE Act, which calls for federal decriminalization of cannabis and the expungement of records for former cannabis-related felons. Watson from Let’s Keep the Seat says that Newsom should seriously consider a progressive candidate in the mold of Bernie Sanders.

“Remember, Bernie won the state,” said Watson, referring to the 2020 presidential primary. She argues that California Democrats are liberal, not moderate, and that someone like Lee would represent such interests.


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    • nikita

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      • 2QIK4U

        Loony Toons 😜

    • 2QIK4U


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