Newsom has considered successors, but Feinstein says she isn’t stepping down

A masked Sen. Dianne Feinstein, left, walks next to an unidentified man.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 10, 2021.
(Associated Press)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday found herself once again swatting back speculation that she might retire and insisted she would serve out the entirety of her fifth full term as California’s senior senator.

“No,” Feinstein (D-Calif.) said when asked by several reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday if she had any plans to resign. “I’ve not discussed that with anybody. Nobody has asked me questions about it.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom resurrected the recurring murmuring about Feinstein’s future by committing Monday evening in a televised interview that should Feinstein resign, he would replace her with a Black woman, and that he already had a list of possible names.


Newsom later sought to clarify his remarks by saying he did not mean to suggest Feinstein, 87, was leaving.

Feinstein said she was fully committed to serving a full term, which would end in January 2025. She said she was confident in her ability to continue to do the job.

Newsom told MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Monday that if given the chance to fill a Senate vacancy, he would appoint a Black woman to the seat. The embattled California governor added: “I have multiple names in mind.”

If Sen. Dianne Feinstein retires, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he would nominate a Black woman to fill the seat.

Newsom’s willingness to publicly speculate about replacing a sitting U.S. senator who has not announced plans to leave was unusual.

Some attributed it to Newsom’s need to bolster support among Black female voters as he faces a likely recall effort. The governor acknowledged Tuesday that his critics appear to have gathered enough signatures to force a special election where voters could remove him from office later this year.

Newsom was under pressure late last year to name a Black woman to fill Vice President Kamala Harris’ seat, particularly because she was the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate. He instead appointed Alex Padilla, the state’s first Latino senator.

In an effort to downplay the dust-up Tuesday, Newsom said that he was merely answering a hypothetical question “honestly.”

“And that often gets you in trouble in politics,” he added. “That said, I have zero expectation that the senator’s going anywhere, and have had extensive conversations with her on multiple, multiple occasions over the course of the last weeks, not just months, on a myriad of different topics.”

Newsom praised Feinstein as “a magnificent, extraordinary person, and I think there’s been a little too much punditry around her current term. And I think we all do a lot better if we move away from it.”

Feinstein said that she did not know why the governor would publicly discuss that he had thought about the possibility of her stepping down early, and that his comments were being overblown.

“You’ll have to ask him,” she said. “Please, we’re very good friends. I don’t think he meant it the way some people thought.”

Feinstein said that reporters asking her questions about a possible resignation were “making a mountain out of a molehill.”

When asked if there were any conditions under which she would leave her seat early, she said: “Not that I know of.”

Likely to further fuel speculation of a potential retirement, the New York Times reported Tuesday evening that the senator’s husband, Richard Blum, had expressed interest in an ambassador posting and that President Biden — with whom Feinstein and Blum are close — is potentially receptive to the idea. It is unknown, however, whether a foreign posting for Blum would be enough to pull Feinstein out of the Senate.

Feinstein has faced substantial pressure from progressives who view her as too moderate compared with the state she represents, and from other Democrats who quietly question whether she is up for the taxing job of a senator.

Late last year, she bowed to that pressure, saying she would not pursue the chairmanship of the high-profile Senate Judiciary Committee or any other committee this year. With the Senate sharply divided at 50-50, the Judiciary post will be the center of a likely high-profile immigration battle as well as the funnel through which Biden administration judicial nominations will flow.

Times staff writer John Myers in Sacramento contributed to this report.