Gavin Newsom said that he'd appoint a caretaker to replace Feinstein should she leave office early.
Newsom said he didn't want to "tip the balance" of the 2024 Senate primary by tapping a candidate.
Feinstein, who has served in the Senate since 1992, is set to retire after the 2024 elections.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, in an interview that aired on Sunday, said he would appoint a caretaker to the Senate if Dianne Feinstein steps down before her term ends, arguing that it would be "unfair" to appoint a current primary candidate and "tip the balance" of the race.
While speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," the California Democrat said that he hoped he wouldn't have to make an appointment, given his long-standing relationship with Feinstein, a fellow former San Francisco mayor whom he once interned for and has known for decades. But he felt strongly that it wouldn't be right to intervene in the contested primary, which features high-profile Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee, and Katie Porter, among other candidates.
"I don't want to get involved in the primary," Newsom told host Chuck Todd. "It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off. That primary is just a matter of months away. I don't want to tip the balance of that."
Newsom previously said that he'd appoint a Black woman to a vacancy should one come open, and he remained committed to that pledge.
"We hope we never have to make this decision, but I abide by what I've said very publicly on a consistent basis. Yes," he told Todd.
The latest Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll released in September shows Schiff ahead in the Senate primary with 20% support — followed by Porter at 17% and Lee at 7% — with 32% of respondents undecided. California's top-two system mandates that candidates from all political parties run on the same primary ballot, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election regardless of their party preference.
The 90-year-old Feinstein, who has served in the Senate since 1992, is set to retire after the 2024 elections.
"I'm the most subjective human being in the world on this topic. I have no objectivity whatsoever," Newsom said of the senator. "I've known Dianne Feinstein since I was a kid. I interned with her in college. I still have a signed book from my days when she was mayor."
"I don't want to make another appointment, and I don't think the people of California want me to make another appointment. I've made plenty of appointments," Newsom said, alluding to his selection of Alex Padilla for the US Senate, Rob Bonta as state attorney general, and Shirley Weber as California's secretary of state.
But, he added: "It's my job, it's my responsibility. If we have to do it, we'll do it."
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