California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s long–standing pledge to appoint a Black woman to replace longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein should her 2nd term be cut short before it expires in January 2025 may have put him a tight spot.
Feinstein, 89, has been in the Senate since 1992. Despite slipping in recent years, she has given no indication that she will retire before her current term ends in 2025, but Newsom‘s pledge has sparked interest in who the governor may appoint if a vacancy arises.
The Associated Press‘ Michael R. Blood explored the governor‘s plight in depth in a recently published article that included a surprising name among the “obscure to famous” people who have been “floated in California circles” as the possible replacement: celebrity talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
When Newsom made his pledge, two candidates seemed the most likely for the position: Reps. Barbara Lee and Karen Bass. That has since changed, with Lee running against Rep. Adam Schiff to succeed Feinstein and Bass newly–appointed mayor of Los Angeles.
This leaves the open vacancy to be filled by Newsom’s “caretaker“ pick, and here is where speculation about Winfrey has stirred. Although the 63–year–old billionaire media mogul publicized her intentions to one day run for president — before ultimately passing on the 2020 election — she hasn’t ruled out a future campaign bid.
If Winfrey does decide to run for president in 2028 or beyond, her experience as a caretaker senator until 2025 — Newsom‘s deadline — could provide a significant political boost.
“That’s where names like Winfrey come up — a celebrity who is Black and happens to meet Newsom’s appointment pledge,” Blood noted in his article.
Considering Winfrey is the only famous name that the AP article mentions or speculates about, and the fact that Blood inexplicably mentioned her twice in the story, it is possible that she is a serious candidate for the position.
However, as Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, pointed out to Blood, “Every appointment press release has to start with a list of 10 or 15 names,” and ultimately the decisionmaker has to weigh the pros and cons for each as well as the political impact of each potential pick.
“The most important thing is that the person supports the Senate’s main agenda,” he said.
If Winfrey is going to be Newsom’s caretaker pick to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein before the start of 2022, we’ll likely have confirmation — or at least deeper concept — in the near future.