Oprah Winfrey's name has been tossed around by California politicians as Governor Gavin Newsom (D) navigates the political tightrope surrounding ailing senator Dianne Feinstein.
The Associated Press reports that Winfrey could potentially keep Feinstein's seat warm for another Democrat if she is forced to resign before her term ends. In the event that happens, Newsom has pledged to appoint a black woman.
Feinstein has said she is not seeking re-election in 2024, but she has given no indication she plans to retire before then despite her alarmingly weak condition.
The oldest member of Congress, who is turning 90 next month, has long faced rumors about her mental fitness, but concerns have grown more pronounced recently after a prolonged absence to treat the shingles.
When Feinstein returned to Washington this month, it was in a pitifully frail and confused state. The wheelchair-bound senator indicated that she believed she had never left town.
Feinstein is reportedly suffering ongoing complications including vision and balance issues and Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which causes facial paralysis and hearing loss. She suffered inflammation of the brain while in the hospital, and those who have seen her at work recently say her condition is "frightening."
Some Democrats have lamented that Feinstein's refusal to resign is damaging her legacy, and she is likely to face continued pressure to retire if her condition doesn't improve.
But who will take her place? That's where things get tricky.
Newsom has pledged to appoint a black woman. The arbitrary constraint has created an awkward situation indeed, as one of the candidates already vying to replace Feinstein for a full term, Barbara Lee (CA), is a black woman.
That leaves Newsom to choose whether he wants to put his thumb on the scale in the race for Feinstein's seat or appoint a caretaker.
Newsom may try to avoid controversy with option two, but if he passes Lee over, he'll be sure to face backlash if either Adam Schiff (CA) or Katie Porter (CA), who are both white, ends up winning the election. That seems likely, given their (especially Schiff's) notoriety.
There have long been rumors about Oprah running for political office. The billionaire media personality dismissed speculation of presidential ambitions in 2018, saying, "I don't have the DNA for it."
Could the role of senator prove an enticing enough resume topper for one of the world's wealthiest and most influential women? And if so, would she settle for what would likely be a short-term appointment?