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Willie Brown demands Newsom not ‘allow anyone other than a Black woman’ to fill Harris’ seat

Approximately 150 of California’s largest political donors and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown are demanding that Governor Gavin Newsom choose a woman of color to fill the Senate seat vacancy left behind by presumptive Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. Their lobbying of Newsom has become very public. The person tapped for the Senate seat will serve out the rest of Harris’ term in office.

“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 reportedly wrote in a demand 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.

“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,” the letter states. “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.”

The letter is authored by donor groups Electing Women Bay Area and the Los Angeles Women’s Collective. It has reportedly been signed by Democratic donors including Silicon Valley psychiatrist Karla Jurvetson, sociologist Gretchen Sisson, philanthropist Susan Pritzker, and billionaire Dagmar Dolby.

Brown, the former longtime speaker of the California Assembly, said he’s launching a drive Monday to organize Black churches, pastors, civic leaders, fraternal organizations, and prominent members of the Black press statewide to urge Newsom to consider leading Black women for the seat. Among the leading choices, he said, are Reps. Barbara Lee, Karen Bass and Maxine Waters; San Francisco Mayor London Breed; and state Sen. Holly Mitchell.

“There’s no way that Gavin Newsom should allow anyone other than a Black woman to fill the seat of Harris, who’s only the second Black woman in the history of the U.S. Senate,” Brown said on Sunday. “There should be no contest.”

Purported replacements being considered for Harris’ seat are said to include California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, California Democratic Reps. Karen Bass, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, and Adam Schiff, and Mayors London Breed and Eric Garcetti of San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively.

“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, disappointed, that it wasn’t this or that, I don’t even want to get my arms around that until I have the privilege of having to make that decision,” Newsom related in an interview last month.

Newsom faces a historic decision and it could be one of the biggest of his governorship. He is under pressure as well from Latino groups to name California’s first Hispanic senator. California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who is Hispanic, is considered a top contender. Another possible Latino choice is California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. However, a number of these groups want the position appointed based on gender and the choice will be an explosive one for Newsom.

Newsom’s longtime friend Padilla said Sunday that “a diversity of perspectives is important in the representation for California in the United States Senate.”

“The Latino community specifically represents 40 percent of the population — but that diversity is one of a number of considerations I’m sure that the governor is weighing,” Padilla said. “We’ll respect his decision, whenever he makes it known.”

Latino elected leaders and organizations have increased their pressure on Newsom for the Senate seat, even holding a recent Sacramento press conference to remind him that “we are long overdue.”

The Sacramento Bee reported a myriad of civic groups including the California Latino Legislative Caucus, the Latino Community Foundation, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials intend to hold a series of press conferences in four cities calling on Newsom to make the historic appointment.

Under state law, Newsom can appoint a replacement to fill Harris’ seat until her term expires in 2022. Various groups are lobbying Newsom, from Indian Americans backing Rep. Ro Khanna to LGBT leaders who say Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins or Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia deserves the seat.

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