Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) picked Laphonza Butler, the president of the pro-abortion political group, Emily’s List, as a candidate to fill the vacant seat left by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Newsom’s decision to nominate Butler Sunday came days after the death of Feinstein and after previous remarks that he wanted to make an interim appointment, or someone to be a caretaker, until the next election. Anthony York, an adviser to Newsom, said the governor is not placing limitations or preconditions on Butler running for the seat in 2024, according to Politico.
The governor had previously indicated he would nominate a black woman to replace Feinstein if she passed away while still in office.
BREAKING: California Gov. Gavin Newsom will name Laphonza Butler, an adviser to Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign, to fill the U.S. Senate left vacant by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Newsom fulfills a pledge to appoint a Black woman. https://t.co/43io9JhTjx— The Associated Press (@AP) October 2, 2023
She will be the third Black woman to ever serve in the Senate, as well as the first openly LGBTQ+ person to represent California in the chamber, according to NBC.
Feinstein, the longest-serving woman in the Senate, died Thursday at age 90.
Prior to Feinstein’s death, several lawmakers joined the race to succeed her. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) had all hopped into the race for Feinstein’s seat, according to the New York Times.
Feinstein had announced in February that she would not be seeking re-election for another term.
After Newsom had previously ruled Lee out of consideration to replace Feinstein, Lee slammed Newsom in a statement on X, previously known as Twitter.
“I am troubled by the Governor’s remarks,” Lee said. “The idea that a Black woman should be appointed only as a caretaker to simply check a box is insulting to countless Black women across this country who have carried the Democratic Party to victory election after election.”
Butler is currently the head of Emily’s List, a political action group that focuses on electing “Democratic pro-choice women up and down the ballot,” according to the group’s website.
A Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing for Emily’s List from a month ago lists Butler as being a Maryland resident.
On Friday, she posted a tribute to Feinstein on social media, calling her “a titan in the Senate” and “a legendary figure for women in politics and around the country,” NBC reported.
Butler’s professional career has been rooted in California, where she led SEIU Local 2015, the largest union in the state. She has also been a longtime ally of Vice President Kamala Harris, according to NBC, adding Butler currently lives in Maryland, but, the governor’s office said, she owns a home in California and will switch her voter registration.
California will hold two Senate elections next November — a special election for the remaining months of Feinstein’s term until January 2025 and another for a full six-year term, CNN reported.