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The death of veteran California Sen. Dianne Feinstein Thursday evening “creates problems for Democrats in the short and the long term,” said UMass Lowell political science Associate Professor John Cluverius.
Regardless of precedent, he added, “Democrats have to fight tooth-and-nail, or risk sacrificing the last Senate majority they may hold for a generation.”
Zeroing in on the Golden State’s political scene, Cluverius said “replacing Feinstein in office will be controversial.” One outcome may be the appointment of a caretaker senator to Feinstein’s seat, he explained, but California Gov. Gavin Newsom has already made one appointment after Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president.
If a second appointment were to be made by the governor, added Cluverius, “Newsom may want to put his thumb on the scale to settle the election in favor of one of his allies.”
As Feinstein’s health deteriorated rapidly, often in the public sphere, she drew attention to the aging of the nation’s top elected officials. However, Cluverius does not believe her death will perpetuate the subject.
“Feinstein’s death won’t escalate the conversation in the electorate about Biden or Trump’s age,” he said. “The election is too far away.”
An expert in U.S. politics, political research methods and polling, Cluverius is also the associate director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion.