California Governor Gavin Newsom has chosen Democratic strategist Laphonza Butler as the replacement for the late Senator Dianne Feinstein in the U.S. Senate. Newsom described Butler as an advocate for women and girls and a fighter for working people. Butler, who is currently president of EMILY’s List and a former adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign, will serve out the remainder of Feinstein’s term until the 2024 election. Butler’s appointment makes her the only Black woman serving in the U.S. Senate and the first openly LGBTQ+ lawmaker representing California.
EMILY’s List is an organization that supports Democratic women who believe in abortion access. However, Butler’s residence listed on the organization’s website was initially shown as Silver Spring, Maryland, but was later removed. Newsom had previously promised to appoint a Black woman to any vacant Senate seat, but this pledge was criticized by U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, who felt it was insulting to Black women as the appointment would only be temporary.
Newsom made it clear that he wouldn’t choose someone already running for the Senate seat to avoid giving them an unfair advantage in the 2024 election. Democratic U.S. Representatives Katie Porter and Adam Schiff, both representing California, have already launched campaigns to replace Feinstein. Newsom’s spokesperson clarified that Butler was not asked to commit to staying out of the Senate race.
Feinstein, the oldest member of Congress and the longest-serving woman in the Senate, passed away last week after battling various illnesses. She announced in February that she would not seek re-election in the coming year. Butler referred to Feinstein as a legendary figure for women in politics and expressed her admiration for her in a statement following the senator’s death. While Butler has never held elected office, she has been actively involved in California politics for many years and served as a senior adviser to Harris during her presidential campaign.