Who Will Replace Kamala Harris In The Senate? Gov. Gavin Newsom says his considerations include diversity, geography, electability and political compatibility. "Diversity is a given," says one of his advisers.
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'A Vexing Decision': Calif. Governor Mulls Who Will Replace Harris In Senate

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'A Vexing Decision': Calif. Governor Mulls Who Will Replace Harris In Senate

'A Vexing Decision': Calif. Governor Mulls Who Will Replace Harris In Senate

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Senator Kamala Harris is now Vice President Elect Kamala Harris. And that means, come January, her Senate seat in California will be open. So who might replace her? Scott Shafer is a senior politics editor at member station KQED in San Francisco. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT SHAFER, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: So California's governor, Gavin Newsom, is the one who ultimately will make the decision. What will he be deciding based on?

SHAFER: Well, first of all, you have to consider, who are you replacing? Kamala Harris is the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate right now. So diversity will be important. And, you know, not just race and ethnicity, but gender also, maybe geography. You know, is it someone from the north or the south, Los Angeles or the Bay Area? I'm sure he'll want somebody who's simpatico with him politically and someone who's progressive but on the pragmatic side, I would say. And talking to people close to Newsom, I think they would say they want someone who can turn around in a couple of years and win a statewide election. I talked to the governor on Election Day. And he described his decision this way.

GAVIN NEWSOM: I do take it very seriously. It's a sobering responsibility to make that decision. And it has national, not just domestic, ramifications as it relates to the state itself. And so it's a weight of responsibility. And we'll figure it out.

KING: Whose names are you hearing?

SHAFER: Well, it's a pretty long list because people like former Governor Jerry Brown and Dianne Feinstein have been around for a long time. So California has developed a pretty deep bench of Democrats - several women, a couple of members of Congress - Karen Bass from LA, Barbara Lee from Kamala Harris' hometown of Oakland. There's also Ro Khanna, who's an up-and-comer from Silicon Valley, and, like Kamala Harris, he's Indian American.

There's a couple of mayors on the list - London Breed in San Francisco, she's gotten high marks for handling the pandemic, also Libby Schaaf in Oakland. We've got a couple of Latino, statewide office-holders in the mix. Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who's a longtime ally of Newsom's, also Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who Jerry Brown appointed to take Kamala Harris' spot after she was elected to the U.S. Senate. It's a pretty long list - Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who is openly gay. And to hear Newsom tell it, a lot of those people and others are getting in touch with him to talk to him about it.

NEWSOM: There's phone calls. There's emails. You know, people just happen to show up certain places. I think they want to babysit your kids. You know, they want to get the groceries and coffee. So (laughter) it's - if you add all those together, it's quite a significant list.

KING: So there's clearly no shortage of possibilities and people willing to be helpful. Let me ask you - bigger picture - California will now have one of their own as vice president. How does that help the state?

SHAFER: Well, this is really huge for California. Of course, we already have Nancy Pelosi from San Francisco, who is the speaker, and you add Kamala Harris. She has a different background, a law enforcement background. She's interested, of course, in criminal justice reform. She's talked about removing bias from the system. And she understands big cities, like San Francisco - San Francisco and LA - as well as issues they're facing, like homelessness, the cost of housing and transportation. And, you know, she and Gavin Newsom are old friends - or, at least, frenemies. So he can pick up the phone and call her or Nancy Pelosi, I guess, anytime he wants.

KING: Scott Shafer with KQED. Thanks, Scott.

SHAFER: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYCHO SONG, "EASY")

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