When Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced his choice to serve out the remainder of the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) Senate term, the expectation was that the appointee would serve only temporarily as a "caretaker" and not displace the several Democratic candidates already running to succeed Feinstein.
That expectation of an interim "caretaker" appointment was just completely upended, however, as Newsom revealed that his chosen appointee, Laphonza Butler, can run for a full Senate term in 2024 if she wants to, Breitbart reported.
That means that Butler, a Democratic fundraiser and pro-abortion lobbyist who lived in Maryland and has not held elected office before, now has a decided incumbency advantage over the already established and elected Democratic candidates vying to replace Feinstein in the Senate, such as Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff, among others.
According to Politico, Gov. Newsom spoke with reporters Monday to fend off criticism over his appointment and said, "I just think Laphonza Butler is uniquely positioned, simply the best person that I could find for this moment in this job."
With regard to the expectation that Butler would serve as a "caretaker" and step aside at the conclusion of the current term, allowing the other already declared candidates a clear lane to an open seat, the governor admitted, "We didn’t have that conversation. I said, 'This is up to you.' That was the end of that conversation."
He then proceeded to tout Butler as "an incredible appointee" and highlighted her supposed credentials -- she's a young, black lesbian who will advocate for abortion rights, the LGBTQ community, and labor union members -- that, in his view, make her the ideal person for the job in the U.S. Senate.
"You in some ways can’t even make all of this up, if I had to literally design from the mind of imagination, put pen to paper, someone I would like," Newsom explained. "Including the time of life, she’s just 44 years old."
The governor also sought to placate those who felt insulted by his specifically appointing a black woman to what he had previously described as a "caretaker" role and said the prior remarks were a "hypothetical on top of a hypothetical" ahead of Sen. Feinstein's unexpected death and added, "With grace, I walked into it by saying I didn’t want to get in the middle of the primary. I said what I said. That’s rearview mirror stuff right now."
Gov. Newsom may want to dismiss the critiques of his actions and words as "rearview mirror stuff," but there remain some who seek to hold him accountable for his prior statements and vows, especially his pronouncement in early September that any appointee would only serve on an interim basis so as not to "tip the balance" of the primary battle to replace Sen. Feinstein that was already underway.
Yet, he has now done exactly that, and the blunder can be added to the "highlight reel of his political flaws" that Newsom was just exposed for in a scathing op-ed from the San Francisco Chronicle, which took note of the governor's "uncanny ability to shoot himself in the foot."
Newsom was somewhat surprisingly called out for his singular focus on "demographic characteristics" rather than legislative capabilities, to say nothing of Butler's residency issue, and how that focus is "reductive" and "leads to tokenization."
He has now blundered once again by appearing to walk back his prior remarks about an interim appointment by stating that Butler will have the choice whether to run for a full term or not, which has created the perception that he will magnanimously "allow a woman to make decisions about her own career!"
"The governor’s bumbling response to the Senate seat opening should serve as a cautionary tale for those who see him as the vanguard of the Democratic Party and as a presidential contender," the Chronicle stated. "Eager to generate headlines and to make history, Newsom is great at making bold proclamations -- even if he contradicts them moments later."
"But a leader who puts good governance first wouldn’t have said anything about Feinstein’s seat unless and until the time came to make a decision," the op-ed concluded. "Forgoing the spotlight, however, has never been Newsom’s strong suit."