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Newsom defends Feinstein, says he's not expecting retirement

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 3, 2021, file photo, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks during a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Committee on Rules and Administration joint hearing examining the Jan. 6, attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington. California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he'll appoint a Black woman to the U.S. Senate if Feinstein retires before her term ends in 2024. (Greg Nash/Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - In this Wednesday, March 3, 2021, file photo, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks during a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Committee on Rules and Administration joint hearing examining the Jan. 6, attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington. California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he'll appoint a Black woman to the U.S. Senate if Feinstein retires before her term ends in 2024. (Greg Nash/Pool Photo via AP, File) (The Hill)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday he expects and hopes Sen. Dianne Feinstein will serve her full term after suggesting the day before he's been thinking about her replacement.

“I have zero expectations the senator will be going anywhere," he said.

Newsom was asked Monday on MSNBC's “The ReidOut" if he would commit to replacing Feinstein with a Black woman if she leaves the Senate before her term ends in January 2025. When former California Sen. Kamala Harris became vice president, the chamber was left with no Black women; Newsom appointed Sen. Alex Padilla to fill the role, making him the state's first Latino U.S. senator.

“We have multiple names in mind and the answer is yes,” he said.

His comments raised eyebrows in California political circles, as Feinstein has faced questions in recent months over her age and memory, as well as criticism from within her own party. At 87, she is the chamber's oldest member. She won reelection in 2018 against a fellow Democrat who ran as a more progressive challenger.

Feinstein said Tuesday she has no plans to resign.

“Please, we’re very good friends. I don’t think he meant it the way some people thought," she told reporters in the Capitol.

Newsom followed up Tuesday with extended and effusive praise for Feinstein, calling her a friend and mentor and praising her work in Washington. Feinstein and Newsom hail from San Francisco, a political power center where each served as mayor, though decades apart.

“I'm the last person to say anything except laudatory things about Senator Feinstein," he said during an event in Alameda.

He said there's been “too much punditry" around Feinstein's future then joked he should have followed the political rule of never answering a hypothetical question.

Newsom, a first-term Democrat, is likely to face a recall election and needs to maintain his political relationships as he stares down a campaign a year before his regularly scheduled election.

Some of Feinstein's allies and donors were not happy with his remarks, said Hope Warschaw, a longtime Feinstein ally and donor from Santa Monica. She was “pretty outraged" by the comment and the ongoing discussion about whether Feinstein will retire early.

Warschaw said she did not speak to Newsom but expects he heard from upset Feinstein supporters.

“That’s just something you don’t say," she said. “He made a mistake."