Six women who could be California's next senator

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomRepublican campaigns for California governor with 1000-pound bear Caitlyn Jenner: California needs a 'thoughtful disruptor' Carper asks EPA to require half of new cars to be zero-emissions by 2030 MORE (D) said Monday night he would appoint a Black woman to the United States Senate if Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Senate Democrats call on Biden to restore oversight of semiautomatic and sniper rifle exports MORE (D) resigns before her term expires in 2024.

Vice President Harris's departure from the upper chamber left it without a single Black woman. 

“We have multiple names in mind, and the answer is yes,” Newsom said when MSNBC’s Joy Reid asked if he would replace Feinstein with a Black woman.


Feinstein reiterated Tuesday she intends to finish out her term, and insiders say they see no signs that she is interested in quitting.  

“Please, we’re very good friends,” Feinstein told reporters on Capitol Hill, speaking of Newsom. “I don’t think he meant that the way some people thought.”

Newsom used Harris’s exit to appoint Sen. Alex PadillaAlex PadillaPadilla introduces bill to expand California public lands Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap Hispanic Caucus energized by first Biden meeting MORE (D), the first Latino to represent a state in which Latinos make up a plurality of the population. His decision was always fraught and certain to anger several pillars of the Democratic coalition. 

“It was definitely a blow to the Black community,” said Taisha Brown, who heads the California Democratic Party’s Black Caucus. “We really thought he was going to support the idea. The fallout was rough for some people.” 

Newsom’s comments Monday come as he strives for a united Democratic coalition in the face of a recall effort that threatens his hold on the governorship. 

“The governor recognizes that women in America are the backbone of this country, but more important, especially in this time, that Black women are the strength of the Democratic Party,” said Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D), who represents part of South Los Angeles.

In interviews Tuesday, half a dozen California Democratic strategists and elected officials pointed to six Black women who might make Newsom’s list. 


Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeNew signs of progress emerge on police reform Progressive lawmaker to introduce bill seeking more oversight of Israel assistance Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  MORE 

Lee, a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has represented Oakland for 23 years after winning a special election to replace the legendary Rep. Ron Dellums (D).

In Congress, she was the only member to vote against the 2001 authorization for use of military force in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. She is the only Black woman in House Democratic leadership, where she co-chairs the Steering and Policy Committee. 

Elevating Lee would not put her district in play — President BidenJoe BidenCaitlyn Jenner on Hannity touts Trump: 'He was a disruptor' Argentina launches 'Green Mondays' campaign to cut greenhouse gases On The Money: Federal judge vacates CDC's eviction moratorium | Biden says he's open to compromise on corporate tax rate | Treasury unsure of how long it can stave off default without debt limit hike MORE won 89 percent of the vote there in 2020. But if Newsom wants to choose a replacement who would build a long career in the Senate, Lee, 74, may not be the ideal contender.

Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassPolice reform talks ramp up amid pressure from Biden, families Victims' relatives hold Capitol Hill meetings to push police reform Biden calls on Congress to pass George Floyd police reform bill by end of May MORE

Bass just finished her two years as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Biden briefly considered her as a possible running mate before settling on Harris. Bass, 67, served a term as speaker of the state Assembly before winning a seat in Congress to represent the Los Angeles area. She chairs subcommittees within the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs panels.

Bass has a reputation for working with Republicans, both in Sacramento, where she worked well with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the depths of the last recession, and in Washington. 

Her seat would not be in any more jeopardy than Lee’s; Biden won the Inglewood and Los Angeles-based district with 84 percent of the vote in 2020.  

California insiders say Lee and Bass are likely the favorites for the seat, though some gave Bass the early edge.

“Every elected Black official are uniting around those two. Either one of those picks would be outstanding,” Jones-Sawyer said. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed 

Breed, 46, grew up in public housing projects in San Francisco, a city she now leads as its mayor. She is the first Black woman to run the city, and only its second Black mayor after Willie Brown. 

In office, she has prioritized San Francisco’s homelessness crisis, though much of the past year has been consumed by the city’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Just days before Newsom got in trouble for attending a maskless dinner at the Michelin-starred French Laundry, Breed attended a birthday party there, too. 

If anything is standing in Breed’s way, it may be California’s complicated regional politics. Newsom, himself a former San Francisco mayor, may find it more politically palatable to choose an Angelino rather than a fellow Bay Area resident. 


Holly Mitchell

Mitchell, 56, spent a decade in the state legislature before winning election to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2020. She chaired the state Senate Budget Committee, no small feat in a state where the budget soars north of $200 billion annually. 

Mitchell has progressive bona fides to match Lee and Bass. She clashed with then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D), a zealous penny pincher, over money for social programs.

Mitchell is close to Newsom as well. And being friendly with the only person who gets a vote is helpful — just ask another close Newsom pal, Padilla.

Malia Cohen

Cohen, 43, is the youngest woman on the list. But she represents far more constituents than anyone else. About 10 million Californians live in the 23 counties Cohen oversees as a member of the state Board of Equalization, which oversees tax collections.

Before winning her board seat, she replaced Breed as president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, where she had served since 2011. Before entering electoral politics, Cohen ran San Francisco’s Employee Retirement System, where she moved $100 million in pension investments into an index fund that did not include fossil fuel companies. 


Cohen also has a direct line to Newsom: The two share a San Francisco-based consulting team. 

Lateefah Simon 

She may have the longest odds of anyone on the list, but Simon, 44, is perhaps the only contender to have been dubbed a genius. At 26, she was the youngest woman ever to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, also called the genius grant, for her work with the Center for Young Women’s Development.  

Simon worked for Harris in the San Francisco District Attorney’s office, where she oversaw reentry programs for young offenders.

Now a member of the board of directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, Simon runs the Akonadi Foundation, a civil rights and racial justice nonprofit based in Oakland.