Much speculation has surrounded the question of whom Newsom might appoint, with heavy pressure to appoint another “woman of color,” or to appoint the state’s first Latino member of the upper chamber of the U.S. Congress. Several other Latinos already serve in the Senate: Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) and Marco Rubio (FL), for example, on the Republican side, and Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ) and Catherine Cortez Masto (NM) on the Democratic side. But California has not yet had one.
Several candidates have emerged: Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who was
thought to be a possible vice presidential candidate; California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, an anti-Trump gadfly; and others.
But Newsom could also appoint himself, as the
Los Angeles Times notes, quoting former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown:
[I]n Sacramento, the governor is bogged down fighting the surging pandemic and angering voters no matter what he does. He’ll be wrestling an unstable boom-and-bust revenue situation as the state’s economy suffers from a pandemic-induced recession. He may need to butcher some popular programs. And he can’t seem to get a grip on homelessness.
So why not jump jobs by grabbing a coveted Senate seat? He’d resign and be appointed by his successor, Democratic Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis.
“If I were Newsom, that’s the first thing I would do,” Brown told me. “I’m 53 and I
have ambition. And I have a friend who is already vice president and she’ll probably be the ‘first’ Californian. But I would like to be the ‘second’ Californian. I could live longer in that status as a senator than as a governor. So, I would be playing practical” politics.
Newsom is thought to have presidential ambitions, and being in Washington might allow him to develop a nationwide audience, as well as develop closer ties to the fundraisers and lobbyists who provide the fuel and staff for campaigns.
The governor could also escape growing political problems at home. He is currently under fire for hypocrisy, as he and his wife attended a lobbyist’s birthday party at the elite French Laundry restaurant earlier this month, flouting his own state coronavirus guidelines.
Ironically, Newsom is currently in
quarantine for two weeks because his children were exposed to a California Highway Patrol officer who tested positive for coronavirus. Newsom himself has tested negative thus far.