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California Governor Appoints Laphonza Butler, Historic Move to Fill Feinstein’s Senate Seat

October 2, 2023







In a significant and historic move, California Governor Gavin Newsom has confirmed his appointment of Laphonza Butler to fill the late Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat. This decision comes after Feinstein’s passing at the age of 90, making her the longest-serving female U.S. senator in history. Butler’s selection, first reported by Politico, is poised to make her the sole Black female senator in Congress and only the third in U.S. history.

Laphonza Butler has an impressive background, serving as the president of EMILY’s List, an organization dedicated to electing Democratic women who support abortion rights. She assumed this role in 2021, becoming the first woman of color to lead the organization. Butler’s career also includes time at Airbnb as a director of public policy and campaigns and advising Vice President Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign. Notably, much of her experience is rooted in the labor movement, where she served as a union president in California.

Newsom’s decision to appoint Butler aligns with his earlier pledge to appoint a Black woman to Feinstein’s seat should the senator resign before the end of her term. While several high-profile Democratic candidates had launched campaigns to succeed Feinstein, including Representatives Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee, Newsom ultimately opted for Butler, emphasizing her strong advocacy for women’s rights and workers.

This marks Governor Newsom’s second Senate appointment, following his selection of Alex Padilla in 2020 to succeed Kamala Harris when she became Vice President. Padilla was appointed as the first Latino senator from California. Newsom’s choice of Butler addresses the previous criticism of not appointing a Black woman to the Senate, effectively diversifying the representation.

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. The primaries for both races are scheduled for March, where candidates from all parties will run on the same ballot, with the top two advancing to the general election.

Laphonza Butler’s appointment to the Senate is a significant moment in U.S. political history, reflecting a commitment to diversity and representation at the highest levels of government.


Credit: CNN

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