Some of California’s biggest political donors are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to choose a woman of color to fill the seat of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
Given how rare it has been for a Senate seat in the country’s largest state to become vacant, California leaders have been hard at work trying to lobby Newsom ever since Harris was chosen for the Democratic ticket this summer. And now the lobbying is becoming more public.
On Monday, about 150 of the state’s biggest women donors will ratchet up the pressure with a public letter to Newsom saying that he should not replace Harris with a white woman, never mind a man.
“We urge you to continue this Californian tradition by appointing a woman of color to Vice President-elect Harris’s US Senate seat,” the donors write in the letter, which will appear as a full-page ad in the state’s two largest newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, and was shared early with Recode. “Women of color are the core drivers of electoral progress in our country, and their voices should be heard in the nation’s highest governing body. California is fortunate to have a strong pipeline of women of color in elected office who are prepared to serve; as Californians and political supporters, we look forward to you selecting one of them.”
Signatories of the letter — which is officially authored by two donor groups, Electing Women Bay Area and the Los Angeles Women’s Collective — include Silicon Valley psychiatrist Karla Jurvetson, one of the country’s biggest Democratic donors; Gretchen Sisson, a sociologist and on-the-rise Democratic fundraiser; Susan Pritzker, a scion of the famous hotel family that has bankrolled Newsom’s ambitions for years; and Dagmar Dolby, the billionaire philanthropist.
The decision before Newsom could be one of the politically diciest of his governorship. Newsom is also under pressure from Latino groups to name California’s first Hispanic senator, and Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, who is Hispanic, is considered a top contender, in part because he is personally close with Newsom. Another possible Latino choice is California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
There are several woman of color who are believed to be competitors with Padilla, including Karen Bass, a Los Angeles congresswoman who is Black and was a finalist to be Joe Biden’s vice-presidential selection; and Barbara Lee, a Black congresswoman from Oakland known for her anti-war stance.
Senate seats in California don’t come up that often. Harris’s counterpart in the Senate, Dianne Feinstein, has held her seat for almost 30 years. Harris’s predecessor, Barbara Boxer, sat in hers for 25. So Newsom is likely staring down a decision that will well outlast him.
Last month, Newsom lamented about “the stress of having to choose between a lot of friends, to choose between quality candidates — and the fact that whoever you pick, there are going to be a lot of people who are going to be upset.”