California’s Next Senator Must Reflect the Mandate of Young People of Color

An Open Letter to Governor Newsom

Sunrise Bay Area
4 min readDec 9, 2020


December 9, 2020

Dear Governor Newsom,

This year, young people — especially youth of color — voted in record numbers to deliver Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s victory. Sunrise Movement alone contacted 3.5 million unique voters in Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, mobilizing our generation to secure the Democrats’ margin. In Arizona, where Trump lost by less than 12,000 votes, California Sunrise hubs knocked on over 3,000 doors and made over 45,000 calls to young voters of color a group that broke decisively for Biden-Harris. Across the country, young (18–29 year old) Latinx voters supported Biden-Harris by a 49% margin, young Asian Americans by 69%, and young Black voters by a breathtaking 77%. There is no doubt: we are the party’s base, and our mobilization put the party back in the White House.

Because of the victory we powered, you now get to appoint who fills Senator Harris’s vacancy. California’s next senator must reflect the mandate that young people and people of color have clearly delivered — a bold, progressive agenda for racial, economic, and climate justice. Our vision has long been popular with a vast majority of Californians, but remains underrepresented in the Senate. To correct this imbalance and effectively represent us, California’s next senator must:

1. Embrace a transformative progressive agenda

This pandemic has exposed the brutality of our current economic system for low-income communities and essential workers. While billionaires have amassed unprecedented profit, millions of Americans are left jobless, hungry, and uninsured. California’s next senator must embrace transformative solutions like Medicare for All, taxing extreme wealth, and a $15 minimum wage.

2. Have a demonstrated commitment to bold climate action

Climate action is a top priority for Californians, who endured yet another record-breaking year of climate-fueled wildfires. Latinx and Black Californians in particular are the state’s most ardent supporters of more ambitious action. The next senator must have a demonstrated commitment to pushing the unprecedented action needed to keep global average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees C, and champion a Green New Deal that centers communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

3. Demand justice for BIPOC communities

This year, the world witnessed the largest national uprising in American history in support of the Movement for Black Lives. Our next senator must represent the state’s communities of color not solely with their identity, but with the policies they fight for. We don’t need more politicians who tone-police demands for justice — California’s next senator should unequivocally support movement demands for an overhaul of public safety and reinvestment in BIPOC communities.

We want to be clear: we are not interested in superficial representation. We will not be satisfied by the established norm of California politicians who campaign on progressive rhetoric, but govern on behalf of the state’s traditional power brokers — oil and agribusiness lobbyists, real estate developers, and tech companies. Replacing Kamala Harris with an establishment, moderate Democrat would be a step backwards for our state, and place Sunrise Movement hubs within California and across the country in the unwelcome but familiar position of mobilizing against them to elect proven Green New Deal champions.

There are a number of visionary, progressive people of color who should be considered the top candidates for Senator Kamala Harris’s vacancy. Our top four candidates include:

  • Congresswoman Barbara Lee
  • Congresswoman Karen Bass
  • Congresswoman Nanette Barragán
  • Congressman Ro Khanna

Each of these leaders has championed the agenda of young people, people of color, and working people. Like Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, they have pledged to not accept money from PACs, lobbyists, or executives of fossil fuel companies; they have endorsed the Green New Deal and co-sponsored Medicare for All. Each would be a phenomenal voice to represent our movement in the Senate and advance the urgent transformation to a more just, equitable, and sustainable society.

Governor Newsom, you insist that climate change is real, and that action must be taken. Over the last several years we have looked to you to take that action, and we have often been disappointed not to see it. You can change that right now. You can represent us. Young people of color mobilized to remove Trump from office, and we voted in record numbers to elect Kamala Harris as the next Vice President. Now, her seat must be filled with a leader who reflects our mandate.


Sunrise Movement

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Sunrise Bay Area

We’re the Bay Area hub of Sunrise Movement — building an army of young people to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.