As vice president-elect Kamala Harris prepares to take her new role in the White House, concern is growing about the U.S. Senate seat she leaves behind as she's currently the only Black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate.
In an effort to address the concern, civil rights leaders are urging California Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill the vacancy with another Black woman.
According to KTLA5, leaders wrote a letter to Newsom, saying it would be a “step backward” if the governor doesn't pick a Black woman to replace Harris. The various groups who signed the letter included the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, Al Sharpton’s West Coast National Action Network and the NAACP's Los Angeles chapter.
“We would find any appointment other than Karen Bass or Barbara Lee to carry out the remainder of Vice President- Elect Harris’ term as a step backwards in our struggle for equity and justice for all,” the letter stated.
In an interview with CapRadio, Lee expressed her excitement for Harris and discussed the possibility of taking the vacant senate seat.
"I think more people now realize why I endorsed her for president because she's fully prepared. She's a person of integrity. She's a fighter and she's a trailblazer," the Oakland politician said. "As vice president, she's going to move the country forward to attack and crush this virus, to create economic opportunities and address the economic and health impacts of this terrible pandemic and also to bring the country together."
Lee also said it would be an honor to fill Harris' position.
"But I think that the governor really, through this process, knows exactly who he thinks will best represent California and best represent the agenda of which Senator Harris has put forth in the Senate," she added.
According to CBS San Francisco, members of the Oakland City Council also signed a letter of recommendation for Lee.
"Lee has shown, both with her words and also with her actions, a deep commitment to justice and a willingness to uplift truth and justice – even in the face of pressure not to,” the letter stated.
The other candidates for the senate seat include Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Rep. Adam Schiff, who led the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Several other city mayors, including London Breed of San Francisco and Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, have also been dubbed as contenders.
"Without Kamala Harris, the US Senate will have NO Black women in it. We need to #KeepTheSeat and are urging California's Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint a Black woman to our seat," activist Karen Finney wrote on Twitter.
Without @KamalaHarris, the US Senate will have NO Black women in it. We need to #KeepTheSeat and are urging California's Gov. @GavinNewsom to appoint a Black woman to our seat. We support @RepKarenBass
— Karen Finney (@finneyk) December 9, 2020
Bass, who serves as head of the Congressional Black Caucus, most recently authored the One-Stop Shop Community Reentry Program Act, which creates resource centers to help formerly incarcerated people. Last month, the Los Angeles representative also introduced a resolution to stop the deportation of Cameroonians.
“The United States must uphold its commitments under international treaties related to refugees and asylum-seekers and halt deportations of Cameroonian citizens,” Bass said in a statement. “Many of the individuals who were deported last week were allegedly improperly coerced to sign voluntary deportation orders. Upon their arrival in Cameroon, many will be at imminent risk of death."
Lee, who recently won re-election for her 13th term in the U.S. House, has been advocating for reparations, according to The Moguldom Nation. The Oakland representative, who proposed the creation of a nonpartisan group of experts to confront the legacy of slavery and racism, delivered a stern statement to legislators last month.
“Tell the truth: We cannot move forward without coming to terms with our past. Let’s pass reparations,” she tweeted.
Tell the truth: We cannot move forward without coming to terms with our past.
Let’s pass reparations.
— Barbara Lee (@BLeeForCongress) November 15, 2020
Newsom hasn't set a timetable for his decision.