Who will replace Dianne Feinstein?

Mayors like London Breed and Karen Bass are possibilities, and even Oprah’s name has come up

Dianne Feinstein died Thursday night, leaving behind not only a long legacy of public service, but also 15 months of her term.

If a U.S. senator dies or resigns while in office, the governor appoints a replacement. Newsom, a Democrat, is almost certainly going to pick another Democrat, and very soon.

Newsom has promised to name a Black woman, but has also stated that he will name a caretaker who will not run for the seat next year. That would rule out Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, the only Black woman in a crowded field that includes Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine.

Some of those mentioned as potential successors for Newsom to appoint to Feinstein’s seat include:

  1. Shirley Weber

Shirley Weber has previously filled an appointment for Newsom, and she is widely regarded as the most likely candidate to fill Feinstein’s seat. Newsom appointed her as Secretary of State in 2021 to fill a vacancy left by the governor’s appointment of Alex Padilla to replace Kamala Harris in the United States Senate after she was elected vice president.

Weber, 75, a sharecropper’s daughter from Arkansas, earned a PhD in communications from UCLA. She was a professor at San Diego State University before being elected to the California Assembly for four terms, representing San Diego. She was also the chairperson of the California Legislative Black Caucus.

Weber was re-elected as Secretary of State for a full term in November, overseeing state elections, business filings, lobbying and campaign spending reports, state archives, and other issues.

  1. London Breed

London Breed, the mayor of San Francisco since 2018, is currently the most visible potential successor.

Breed, 49, grew up in public housing in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood and graduated from the University of San Francisco with a master’s degree in public administration in 2012. She worked in former Mayor Willie Brown’s Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services before becoming the executive director of the African American Art & Culture Complex and being appointed to the city’s redevelopment commission.

She ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2012, became its president, and then took over as acting mayor when former Mayor Ed Lee died in 2017. During her tenure in office, she has been a vocal supporter of increased transit funding and housing construction.

However, she has come under increasing fire in recent years for homeless encampments, retail crime, auto break-ins, and the decision of several major businesses to leave the city. Daniel Lurie, a Democratic philanthropist and heir to the Levi Strauss fortune, announced this week that he would run for re-election against her next year, promising to hire more cops and clean up encampments.

  1. Holly Mitchell

A Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member representing downtown Los Angeles, Carson, Compton, Inglewood, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach. Mitchell, 59, has been involved in state and local politics for over a decade. From 2013 to 2020, she was a state senator representing Los Angeles. She was previously a Los Angeles state assemblywoman.

She went to work for former State Senator Diane Watson after graduating from the University of California-Riverside with a degree in political science. Mitchell was also the CEO of Crystal Stairs, a non-profit that promotes child care and education programs.

During her tenure, she has advocated for increased funding for homeless services and the poor, a ban on urban oil drilling in Los Angeles, and the passage of a state law prohibiting racial discrimination or dress codes in schools or employment based on hairstyles like braids, corn rows, or afros.

  1. Karen Bass

Los Angeles’ current mayor is Karen Bass. Last November, she defeated developer Rick Caruso in the election.

Bass, 69, previously served in the United States House of Representatives from 2011 to 2022, becoming chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

She ran for state Assembly and was elected in 2004, eventually becoming speaker of the Assembly. She was a former physician’s assistant in Los Angeles who became involved in non-profit groups seeking to improve health care and reduce crime.

She was mentioned as a possible running mate for Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential election.

Bass is less likely to accept a 15-month term as interim U.S. senator because she has been mayor of the nation’s second-largest city for less than a year.

Angela Glover Blackwell, an Oakland civil rights lawyer, and even billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey, a Montecito resident, have been mentioned. However, Winfrey’s representative told the Los Angeles Times in May that she “is not considering the seat should it become vacant.”

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