Gov. Gavin Newsom Taps Emily’s List President to Fill Dianne Feinstein’s Term

Laphonza Butler, “the first Black lesbian to openly serve in the U.S. Senate,” will fill the late senator’s seat

Laphonza-Butler
Courtesy of Emily's List

Gov. Gavin Newsom has chosen Laphonza Butler to fill the seat of the late Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, making Butler the third Black woman to ever serve in the Senate.

Newsom announced his decision to appoint Butler, the president of political action committee Emily’s List, on Sunday night.

“I’m proud to announce California’s new United States Senator — Laphonza Butler,” Newsom wrote on X. “As we mourn the enormous loss of Sen. Feinstein, the very freedoms she fought for — reproductive freedom, equal protection, and safety from gun violence — have never been under greater assault. Laphonza has spent her entire career fighting for women and girls and has been a fierce advocate for working people.”

Newsom added that Butler will “make history” by becoming “the first Black lesbian to openly serve in the U.S. Senate.”

“From her time as President of Emily’s List to leading the state’s largest labor union, she has always stood up for what is right and has led with her heart and her values. I have no doubt she will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington,” Newsom said.

Feinstein died on Thursday at age 90 at her home in Washington D.C.

On Friday, Butler praised Feinstein on social media, calling her a “legendary figure for women in politics” and “titan in the Senate.”

Butler is a longtime ally of Vice President Kamala Harris. She’s also a member of the California Board of Regents. 

It is uncertain when she will be sworn in. It could be as soon as Tuesday, when the senate returns to session.

According to NBC, Butler lives in Maryland, but has a home in California and will switch her voter registration.

Newsom previously indicated that he wanted to appoint a Black woman to finish Feinstein’s term. He also said that he wanted to appoint someone who wasn’t planing to run when Feinstein’s term expires in 2024.

He said that it would be “would be completely unfair” to candidates who had been hoping to run for the California senate seat. However some people criticized him for that position, saying he should not place such a restriction on his appointee.

Earlier on Sunday, the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to Newsom asking him to reconsider is position and appoint Rep. Barbara Lee to Feinstein’s Senate seat. Lee is set to run for the U.S. Senate role next year.

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