By Hannah Skepner
SACRAMENTO – The California Legislative Black Caucus met via Zoom with other Black leaders Friday and urged Governor Gavin Newsom to appoint an African American woman to fill the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated when Kamala Harris takes office as the first African American female Vice President of the United States.
Speakers at the Zoom conference included the leader of the California Legislative Black Caucus, Dr. Shirley Weber; the Vice Chair of the Caucus, Steven Bradford; a newly elected Los Angeles Councilmember, Mark Ridley Thomas and the Chair of the California Democratic Party African American Caucus, Taisha Brown.
The group unanimously recommended either Karen Bass or Barbara Lee as appointees to the California Senate seat vacated by Harris.
Karen Bass formerly served in the California State Assembly for six years, the last two as speaker. As a Los Angeles native, Bass is currently the Congresswoman for the 37th congressional district of California.
As such, Bass was elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in 2018, serves as Chair of the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations and for the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.
After the death of George Floyd earlier this year, Bass co-authored the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 with Rep. Jerry Nadler. This act restrained police practices, and makes it easier for police to be held accountable when they break the law. The act will also ban chokeholds, carotid holds, and no-knock warrants, if it passes in the Senate.
The other highly qualified candidate suggested by the Caucus is Barbara Lee. Lee was elected to the State Assembly in 1990, where she served for six years prior to being elected to the State Senate.
As a legislator, Lee authored almost 70 bills and resolutions that were signed into law by then Republican Governor Pete Wilson. These different pieces of legislation addressed a wide variety of issues ranging from public safety to environmental issues.
In 1995, Lee authored the California Schools Hate Crimes Reduction Act, which affords protection from hate crimes to all students in public schools regardless of their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other. During her time in the State Senate, Lee was a strong advocate for African Americans, and for women.
In 1998, Lee was elected as Congresswoman for California’s then 9th district where she took controversial stances on many different issues. She has been a strong advocate for legislation to end poverty, ending the HIV epidemic and the only member of Congress to vote against the authorization of use of force following the September 11 attacks.
As Dr. Shirley Weber noted in her remarks Friday morning, both women “have confidently built strong coalitions across diverse communities, and will do so in the senate.”
All speakers had a common theme in saying that the Black community has been the backbone of the Democratic Party for some time now, and are passionately requesting that Governor Newsom prove that very fact in his appointment decision.
These people expressed their great pride in the work they did to elect President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, but they would be heartbroken to know that all of that hard work would lead to the lack of Black female representation in the Senate.
California Legislative Black Caucus is planning to meet with Gov. Newson, and have sent him a letter and petition naming their two recommendations.
They have also not yet reached out to Harris to get her input on these two candidates, but believe she would agree with their stance on the situation.
Taisha Brown, the Chair of the California Democratic Party African American Caucus concluded the press conference by announcing a rally that her organization will be having on Nov. 21 at the Capitol, further urging the Governor to hear their request.
Hi! I’m Hannah Skepner, and I’m from the East Bay Area. I’m a third year this year at UC Davis, and am currently majoring in Communications and minoring in Psychology.
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