San Francisco Mayor Calls Kamala Harris' Senate Replacement 'Unfortunate' in Light of BLM

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla's appointment to fill Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' Senate seat has been both praised and criticized for its broader implications about racial representation in politics.

While Padilla will be the state's first Latino senator—a milestone for California, where nearly 40 percent of the state's residents are Latino—his appointment also means there will no longer be any Black women in the Senate.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed called the replacement a "real blow" to the African American community and an especially "unfortunate situation" in light of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that swept the nation this summer.

"The sad reality is [Harris] was the only African American woman in the Senate at this time," Breed said during a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

"And when you think about the history of this country and the challenges that exist for African Americans, especially African American women in the Senate, definitely this is a real blow to the African American community, to African American women, to women in general," the mayor said.

"It's really challenging to put it into words, but it was definitely a surprise," she continued. "And it's an unfortunate situation as we are trying to move this country forward and making sure that Black lives truly matter and that African Americans have a seat at the table, especially African American women, after what was done in this race on a national level. Definitely is unfortunate."

London Breed
San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks during a press conference on November 21, 2019. Breed this week called the appointment of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' vacant Senate seat a "real blow" to the African American community. Justin Sullivan/Getty

Breed, the first Black woman to be elected mayor of San Francisco, was a potential pick to fill Harris' seat. U.S. Representative Karen Bass, the first Black woman to serve as speaker of a state legislative body, and U.S. Representative Barbara Lee were also seen as possible choices.

Breed said there was a "lot of pride" when Harris gained the Democratic nomination for vice president and subsequently became the vice president-elect. She was the first Black woman to run on a major party's presidential ticket and is the first Black woman to be elected to the position.

But Breed said she saw her Senate seat's vacancy as another opportunity "to ensure, as [Harris] continued to say, 'even though you may be the first, make sure you're not the last.'"

Earlier this month, Representative Ayanna Pressley was among a number of Black leaders urging California Governor Gavin Newsom to replace Harris with another Black woman.

"We absolutely cannot go backwards. With the election of @KamalaHarris to VP-elect, @CAgovernor must prioritize this leadership, perspective & representation in the vacated U.S. Senate seat & appoint a Black woman," Pressley tweeted.

Although Newsom rejected these pleas, his office announced on Tuesday that he would nominate Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who is Black, to replace Padilla and become the next secretary of state. If Weber is confirmed, she would be the first Black woman to hold the position.

But the announcement, which came about six hours after Padilla's appointment, seemed to come in response to the backlash Newsom faced for not picking another Black woman to take Harris' place.

Newsweek reached out to Newsom's office for comment but did not hear back before publication.