Rep. Barbara Lee would benefit more from that result than either Rep. Adam Schiff or Katie Porter. Newsom angered some black voters by replacing newly promoted Vice President Kamala Harris with Sen. Alex Padilla, the state’s first Latino senator, an election that left the Senate empty of black women. Later, the governor promised to appoint a black woman if she won another Senate election. Lee was scouted to replace Harris and was widely seen as the logical choice if Feinstein resigned.
Feinstein had been facing growing calls to return or resign, including from some fellow Democrats, as his prolonged absence prevented the Senate Judiciary Committee from advancing judicial nominations and threatened further chaos as a nearly tied Senate faces an impending battle for Debt.
But it now looks more likely that he will stay out of his term, preserving the basic dynamics of the Senate race to date. Lee, Porter and Schiff have cast star sponsorships and worked to chart a path through a complex primary. Assuming Feinstein hangs on, neither of them will get a nod from Newsom or the awesome powers of incumbency.
And what about Feinstein’s nod? He has yet to endorse a favored successor or indicate that he will, though he is closer to Schiff than the other contenders. But his blessing may not move the needle. In fact, it could be a liability for the many progressive voters who are ready to put the Feinstein era behind them and shift California Senate representation to the left.
This article first appeared in an issue of the California Playbook PM Newsletter.