By Tanu Henry, California Black Media  


(Left) Vice President Elect Kamala Harris and Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland (Right). (Courtesy Photo)

Black leaders across California are pointing to three “obvious” reasons they say it’s wise for Gov. Newsom to pick either Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37) or Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) to replace Sen. Kamala Harris when she vacates her seat and is inaugurated vice president of the United States in January.   

“We are adamant that the replacement of Senator Harris’s seat must be an African American,” said Assemblymember Shirly N. Weber (D- San Diego), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC).  

Weber was speaking during a virtual press conference the CLBC held Nov. 13 with other Black caucus members, elected officials from around the state and other Black leaders to register their support for Bass and Lee.  

“The African American community has proven itself in this election – and in past elections — to be the strongest force in the Democratic Party,” Weber continued. “We solidly vote Democrat and support the principles of the Democratic Party. No other group can make that claim in California or in any state.  

Weber stressed that African Americans can no longer carry the burden of Democratic Party and continue to be overlooked for appointments.  

On the conference call, the leaders went on to list the other reasons they think the choice is clear.  

Second, with more than 50 years of congressional experience between them at the state and local levels, the two women are the most qualified, their supporters say.  

“These are two public servants who have a history of being inclusive. Their politics don’t represent a narrow view of democracy, but an expansive view,” said Mark Ridley-Thomas, who serves on the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors. A former California State Senator and Assemblymember, on Nov. 3, he was elected to serve on the Los Angeles City Council.  

“They have located themselves, in any number of instances, in solidarity with the Latin-x community, the Native American community, API community, and more. This is why we assert that they are worthy of being U.S. senators,” Ridley-Thomas continued.   

Ridley-Thomas also added that Lee and Harris have the requisite foreign policy knowledge, experience and exposure that is required of United States senators.  

Finally, the advocates say, the governor needs to appoint a Black woman to replace Harris because after she vacates her seat, there will be no other Black women in the U.S. Senate.  

“It’s not an option anymore. We will no longer be ignored, pushed to the side, or let games be played behind our backs,” said Taisha Brown, chair of the California Democratic Party African American Caucus (CDPAAC). “We are asking Gavin Newsom, our governor, to either appoint Karen Bass or Barbara Lee. “We might have secured the first Black woman into the vice presidency, but that success has left a well in the United States, where there is no longer a Black woman. Not one.”  

Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Los Angeles) said while America should celebrate the Biden-Harris win, the country should not sit on its laurels and underestimate the sacrifice it took to get the Democratic Party candidates to the highest offices in the land.  

“We will not allow the hard work of the African American community in electing the Biden-Harris team to result in the loss of a senate seat here in California and, more importantly, for Black Women,” Bradford said.