Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) criticized California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) comments that he would appoint a Black woman to be Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s replacement — but not someone running for the seat.

Lee, who is Black, is running for the Senate in California. Feinstein is not running for reelection in 2024, but her health problems and absences from the Senate have raised questions about whether she’ll complete her term.

“I am troubled by the governor’s remarks,” Lee said in a Sunday statement. “The idea that a Black woman should be appointed only as a caretaker to simply check a box is insulting to countless Black women across this country who have carried the Democratic Party to victory election after election.”

“The perspective of Black women in the U.S. Senate is sorely needed — and needed for more than a few months. Governor Newsom knows this, which is why he made the pledge in the first place,” Lee added. “If the Governor intends to keep his promise and appoint a Black woman to the Senate, the people of California deserve the best possible person for that job. Not a token appointment. 

“Black women deserve more than a participation trophy. We need a seat at the table.”

Newsom has said if he needed to appoint a replacement, he would choose a Black woman, a position he reiterated in an interview Sunday with NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.” 

Newsom did not describe the appointment as a caretaker position, but in pushing the governor, Todd said such an appointee “would be essentially a caretaker.”

Newsom told Todd he doesn’t want to appoint a replacement because it would be “completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off,” but conceded he would do so if necessary. 

He has made it clear he would not appoint any of the people currently running for Feinstein’s seat. That would prevent Lee from being appointed.

Getting an appointment potentially could be a big advantage. Newsom told Todd he didn’t want to “tip the balance” ahead of a Democratic primary.

Concerns over Feinstein’s health have been rising, particularly after she took several months off earlier this year to deal with a bout of shingles. 

Feinstein announced in February she would not seek reelection after a 30-year run in the Senate. 

Contenders for Feinstein’s seat include Lee and Reps. Adam Schiff and Katie Porter. 

If Lee were to win, she would become the only sitting Black female U.S. senator and only third ever elected. The last sitting Black female senator was Vice President Harris.

But recent polls show Lee trails Schiff and Porter.

–Updated at 11:46 a.m.