California Governor Gavin Newsom will appoint Laphonza Butler, a Democratic strategist and activist, fulfilling his promise to fill the late Dianne Feinstein’s seat with a Black woman.
Butler, an adviser to Kamala Harris’ failed presidential campaign, will fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat of Feinstein, who died Thursday at age 90.
Newsom told MSNBC host Joy Reid in March that he planned to fill the seat with a Black woman if it became open.
‘I have several names in mind. We have several names in mind – and the answer is yes,” he said when asked.
He was under pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus and other interest groups to select Representative Barbara Leea prominent black congresswoman who is already running for the seat.
California Governor Gavin Newsom will appoint Laphonza Butler, a Democratic strategist and activist, fulfilling his promise to fill the late Dianne Feinstein’s seat with a Black woman
The caucus wrote an open letter to Newsom earlier Sunday asking him to appoint Lee, who has served in Congress since 1998.
Lee is running against fellow California Congressmen Adam Schiff and Katie Porter in an effort to win the 2024 race in a state that hasn’t sent a Republican to the Senate since 1992.
Butler heads Emily’s List, a political organization that supports Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights.
She is also a former union leader at SEIU 2015, a powerful force in California politics. Butler will be the first gay person to represent California in the Senate and the first black lesbian, according to the LA times.
Social media immediately jumped on the fact that she currently lives in Maryland, according to her Emily’s List biography, which the progressive activist group deleted within an hour of the announcement.
Federal Election Commission documents shared by X users showed she was living in the state as recently as last month. Her LinkedIn page states that she lives in the ‘Los Angeles Metropolitan Area’.
Democrats control the Senate 51-49, although Feinstein’s seat is vacant. A quick nomination by Newsom will give the Democratic caucus more leeway on tight votes, including nominations that Republicans unanimously oppose.
Butler could be sworn in as early as Tuesday evening when the Senate reconvenes.
Newsom told MSNBC host Joy Reid in March that he planned to fill the seat with a Black woman if it became open
Butler heads Emily’s List, a political organization that supports Democratic female candidates who support abortion rights
Democrats control the Senate 51-49, although Feinstein’s seat is vacant after she died Thursday
Butler’s biography on Emily’s List, where she is president, removed a detail showing she lived in Maryland within hours of the announcement that Newsom would appoint her
Although her biography and FEC filings show her as living in Maryland, she lists the “Los Angeles Metropolitan Area” as her location on LinkedIn
Feinstein, the oldest member of Congress and the longest-serving woman in the Senate, died at the age of 90 after a series of illnesses. She said in February that she would not seek re-election in 2024.
Lee is one of several prominent Democrats vying for the seat, including Democratic U.S. Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff.
Newsom said he did not want to appoint any of the candidates because it would give them an unfair advantage in the race.
“It would be completely unfair to the Democrats who have done their best,” he told NBC News a few weeks ago. ‘These primaries are only a matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance.’
An LA Times/Berkeley IGS poll this week showed California Rep. Adam Schiff leading with 20 percent. Schiff, a former House impeachment manager, was followed by Rep. Katie Porter with 17 percent and Lee with 7 percent.
His spokesman Anthony York said the governor had not asked Butler to commit to staying out of the race. December 8 is the deadline for candidates to run for office.
Butler has never held elected office but has a long record of service in California politics.
She was a senior adviser to Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign while working at a political firm full of strategists who have worked for Newsom and many other prominent state Democrats. She also worked briefly in the private sector for Airbnb.
Barbara Lee, D-Calif., is already running for the Senate seat. The Congressional Black Caucus wrote a letter on Sunday urging Newsom to appoint her
Rep. Katie Porter is battling Lee and Rep. Adam Schiff in the 2024 race for the vacant Feinstein seat
Rep. Adam Schiff leads early polls. He served as a House impeachment manager in the Senate
The Congressional Black Caucus wrote an open letter to Newsom earlier Sunday asking him to appoint Lee, who has served in Congress since 1998.
Butler called Feinstein “a legendary figure for women in politics and across the country,” in a statement posted after Feinstein’s death.
Emily’s List, the group Butler leads, focuses on electing Democratic women who support abortion rights.
With the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn women’s constitutional right to abortion, the issue has become a galvanizing one for many Democrats.
It’s not the first time Newsom has selected a U.S. senator, after he was tasked with choosing a replacement for Kamala Harris when she was elected vice president; at that time he selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla for the post.
Newsom is a rallying force within his own party. The Biden campaign sent him to Simi Valley this week as a counter-spokesman for the Republican presidential debate.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has the authority to appoint a successor to the late Senator Dianne Feinstein. He said amid Feinstein’s health concerns that he would appoint a Black woman to the seat. Three prominent state Democrats are already vying for the seat in the primaries
He will debate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis next month on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s program. He has also repeatedly denied his own interest in running for the White House, amid election issues for the 80-year-old Biden and insiders’ concerns that public perception of his age and vitality could hurt his chances .
Newsom called Feinstein a “political giant” in a statement Friday who “broke barriers and glass ceilings.”
He called her a “powerful, groundbreaking U.S. Senator” and a “leader in times of tragedy and chaos.”
In words that underscored the challenge of choosing someone to succeed her, he said, “There is simply no one who had the poise, the gravitas and the fierceness of Dianne Feinstein.”
The seat is expected to remain in Democratic hands in the 2024 elections. Democrats in the liberal-leaning state haven’t lost a statewide election since 2006, and the party has a nearly 2-to-1 voter advantage over Republicans.