California governor Gavin Newsom (D) has made a critical decision about the replacement of ailing senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) - and at least one Democrat isn't hiding her displeasure.
If Feinstein retires before her term ends, Newsom will appoint a caretaker to fill the role - denying California's Barbara Lee (CA) a critical advantage in the heated primary for Feinstein's seat.
The news puts to rest a key question about Newsom's pledge to appoint a black woman in Feinstein's place.
The promise left Newsom with an awkward choice: either appoint a token black woman to keep the seat warm or tip the scales in Lee's favor by appointing her.
It appears Newsom has made his choice.
"I don’t want to get involved in the primary,” Newsom said. "It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off. That primary is just a matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance of that,” Newsom added.
The controversy has put Newsom - a white male - in a tricky spot with the progressives obsessed with "diversity." Of the candidates vying for Feinstein's seat in 2024, Lee is the only black woman - and she is running far behind her competitors Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff.
That may lead some to see Newsom's decision as a betrayal, but he insists he's keeping his word.
"We hope we never have to make this decision, but I abide by what I’ve said very publicly on a consistent basis. Yes,” he said.
Despite her visibly frail condition, 90-year-old Feinstein has given no indication she plans to step aside before her term ends, although she says she will not seek re-election in 2024.
Lee has made her displeasure with Newsom's decision very apparent. She says "black women" - apparently she represents the whole group - "deserve" more than a "token appointment."
"I am troubled by the governor’s remarks,” Lee said. “The idea that a Black woman should be appointed only as a caretaker to simply check a box is insulting to countless Black women across this country who have carried the Democratic Party to victory election after election.”
Newsom has also given clear signs of presidential ambition that have brought tensions with vice president Kamala Harris. Allies of hers have blasted Newsom's proposal to debate Ron DeSantis (R) as "disrespectful."
Between Newsom's empty "pledge" and Lee's self-interested outrage, this is identity politics at its most cynical.