Newsom will appoint Black woman if Feinstein retires early

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 3, 2021, file photo, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks during a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Committee on Rules and Administration joint hearing examining the Jan. 6, attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington. California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he'll appoint a Black woman to the U.S. Senate if Feinstein retires before her term ends in 2024. (Greg Nash/Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, March 3, 2021, file photo, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks during a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Committee on Rules and Administration joint hearing examining the Jan. 6, attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington. California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he'll appoint a Black woman to the U.S. Senate if Feinstein retires before her term ends in 2024. (Greg Nash/Pool Photo via AP, File) (The Hill)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he'd appoint a Black woman to replace U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein if she retires before her term is up in 2024.

“We have multiple names in mind and the answer is yes," he said during a interview on MSNBC's “The ReidOut" when asked if he would name a Black woman to the seat if given the chance.

Feinstein, 87, is the oldest sitting U.S. senator. She won her sixth election in 2018 and said she plans to serve out her full term. But she's recently faced questions about her memory and pushback from Democrats who see her as too friendly with Republicans. She said in December she wasn't planning on retiring early and defended her job performance.

“The senator has no plans to step down," Tom Mentzer, her spokesman, said in an email Monday.

Were she to retire before her term is up, the governor would appoint a replacement. Newsom recently held that power after then-California Sen. Kamala Harris was elected vice president. He faced competing pressure to name a Latino and a Black woman and eventually chose Alex Padilla, making him California's first Latino U.S. senator.

Harris' departure left Black women without any representation in the 100-member chamber. U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee of Oakland and Karen Bass of Los Angeles were under consideration for the Harris seat and would likely be on Newsom's list were he to get a second Senate appointment. The two organized a Monday news conference defending him against a pending recall effort.

Feinstein, meanwhile, has recently drawn the ire of progressives for some of her actions, including her role in Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearing just before last year's election. She was seen hugging Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and praising his committee leadership during the hearings as he was in a tight reelection battle.