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Win by Biden and Harris opens up California Senate seat

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom will pick successor

California Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint Sen. Kamala Harris' successor.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint Sen. Kamala Harris' successor. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential win means California will lose one of its senators when Kamala Harris becomes vice president in January. The vacancy will put Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is tasked with appointing Harris’ successor, in the spotlight. 

Harris’ first Senate term was set to expire in January 2023, since she was elected in 2016. The governor could call a special election prior that to replace Harris, but he is not legally required to do so, according to the California Secretary of State’s office. If there is no special election, Newsom’s appointee could serve out the rest of Harris’ unexpired term and run for a full term in 2022.

There is no shortage of high-profile Democratic politicians in California, meaning Newsom could be looking at a long list of potential appointees.

Politico reported in late October that Newsom’s short list includes two potential candidates who would be the state’s first Latino senator: Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Rep. Karen Bass, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, is also reportedly a top contender for the appointment.

Other members of Congress have also been named in reports about Harris’ potential successor, including Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, a favorite among progressives; Katie Porter, another progressive member who’s known for her sharp questioning in hearings; Ro Khanna, who co-chaired former Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign; and Adam Schiff, who built a national profile as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.