Gavin Newsom could tap Oprah to replace Feinstein in Senate: report

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey is being floated as a potential replacement for ailing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) should the 89-year-old lawmaker step down before the end of her term, according to a report. 

Feinstein, who returned to the Senate earlier this month, has already said she will not run for re-election in 2024, but the Associated Press reports that several names including Winfrey’s are being discussed as potential replacements in case Feinstein retires. 

California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom would be tasked with choosing Feinstein’s successor should she retire before the 2024 election. 

Some Democrats have pushed for Feinstein to retire due to diminished mental acuity.

Newsom has previously vowed to appoint a black woman should Feinstein’s seat open up. 

Winfrey, a Democrat and billionaire talk show host, would fit the bill. 

During the 2022 midterm elections, Winfrey waded into politics and endorsed several Democrats in high-profile races, including John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, Cheri Beasley in North Carolina, Val Demmings in Florida, Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin, Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Raphael Warnock in Georgia and Stacey Abrams in Georgia.

In the run-up to the 2020 election, Winfrey was mentioned as a possible presidential contender, but she has ruled out running for the White House on multiple occasions.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is reportedly considering picking Oprah Winfrey to replace Sen. Dianne Feinstein if the lawmaker chooses to resign.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

For instance, in a November 2018 speech during one of Abrams’ Georgia gubernatorial runs, Winfrey said, “I am not here because I am making some grandstand, because I’m thinking about running myself. I don’t want to run. I am not trying to test any waters, don’t want to go in those waters.”

Several prominent Democrats have already entered the race to fill Feinstein’s seat when her term ends — including California Rep. Barbara Lee, who is black, and California Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff, who both are white.

Newsom’s selection of Lee for a short-term Senate appointment in the event Feinstein retires would likely elevate her to frontrunner status in 2024. 

Newsom previously promised to appoint a black woman if Feinstein's seat opens up.
Newsom previously promised to appoint a black woman if Feinstein’s seat opens up.
Photo by John G. Mabanglo-Pool/Getty Images

On Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Feinstein is being shielded from interacting with reporters and photographers on Capitol Hill by aides and the Senate sergeant-at-arms.

A source close to the senator described her condition as “frightening,” according to the New York Times, as she has suffered vision and balance impairments and facial paralysis known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome from her case of shingles.

As a rare side effect, she also developed encephalitis, which can cause the brain to swell and may affect her language skills, sleep and mood.

Feinstein recently returned to the Senate after an absence due to illness.
Feinstein recently returned to the Senate after an absence due to illness.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

The senator recently expressed confusion on her whereabouts when confronted by reporters, insisting that she had not left Congress to recover from the illness and had instead been voting the whole time.

Last month, Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) called on Feinstein to resign.

“It’s time for [Feinstein] to resign,” Khanna said. “We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty. While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties. Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people.”