Black Leaders Say Black Woman Should Get Harris’ Senate Seat

A group of 28 Black civil rights leaders wrote a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, urging him to place another Black woman into Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ U.S. Senate seat, once it becomes vacant upon her assuming her new role in the White House.

Newsom has the authority to choose who will fill the legislative spot for the last two years of Harris’ term. The Associated Press reports the group wants him to choose Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland or Rep. Karen Bass of Los Angeles, who is also chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“We would find any appointment other than Karen Bass or Barbara Lee to carry out the remainder of Vice President- Elect Harris’ term as a step backwards in our struggle for equity and justice for all,” the letter reads.

Its signatories include leadership from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, the West Coast National Action Network, and the NAACP’s  Los Angeles chapter, according to the AP.

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Newsom has faced pressure from several sides regarding his pick to fill Harris’ seat. Alex Padilla, California’s Secretary of State, is reportedly a front-runner for the job and has been an ally of the governor for years. He has also won the endorsement of California’s other senator Diane Feinstein, the Huffington Post reported.

Others, however, want Newsom to think more broadly, encouraging names such as San Francisco Mayor London Breed, also an African American woman; Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff; California attorney general Xavier Becerra and Rep. Ro Khanna, an Indian-American who represents Silicon Valley, as possibilities.

“This is not something that I wish even on my worst enemy, because you create enemies in this process you know, not just friends. And it’s a vexing decision. It’s a challenging one,” Newsom told reporters on Election Day, according to NPR.

Nonetheless, these civil rights advocates want to see Black woman leadership remain in the Senate seat. Only two senators out of 100 in Congress now are Black and both of them — Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Tim Scott — are men.

“Governor Newsom has a critical opportunity to be on the right side of history and ensure that the work Vice President–Elect Harris has done for California and for the country continues,” wrote Glynda Carr, president of Higher Heights, an organization that advocates for Black women’s political empowerment in an essay published in Marie Claire. “Appointing a Black woman to her vacated seat is not only the best choice for the state, but necessary for the nation.”

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