Senate's Diversity Issues Fall to California Governor

Gavin Newsom has to pick a replacement for Kamala Harris
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 20, 2020 12:45 PM CST
Diversity Pressure Falls to Newsom on Senate Choice
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a COVID-19 testing facility in Valencia in October.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, Pool, File)

Should California get its first Latino US senator, or should the 100-member chamber maintain one Black woman's voice? That's a weight on California Gov. Gavin Newsom's shoulders as he considers his pick to serve out the rest of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' Senate term through 2022. That the choice is left to one governor has some observers frustrated with the persistent lack of racial diversity in the Senate and what they view as both parties' failure to do much about it, the AP reports. "It's a false choice, and it's not good for democracy, and it masks the historical exclusion of both communities in the Senate," said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA.

The disproportionate whiteness of the chamber isn't necessarily about too few diverse candidates but about too few diverse candidates who are winning. The South saw its highest number of Black Senate candidates ever this year, but none won races outright. Those with a stake in Newsom's choice are lobbying openly. Rep. Karen Bass, whom Newsom is considering for Harris' seat, said she doesn't view various groups as competing because all deserve representation. "I do not view it as Gov. Newsom’s responsibility to solve the representation issue in the entire Senate," she said. "But on Jan. 20, there will not be an African American woman in the Senate, and everybody applauded the role that Black women have played in our elections in the Democratic Party in America." (There are concerns about California's other senator.)

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