Former Harris adviser named to Feinstein Senate seat

October 3, 2023

Laphonza Butler, a former adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris who currently serves as president of EMILY’s List, has been named by California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat in his state that previously was held by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), who died on Friday, September 29, at the age of 90, reports The Hill.

Newsom made the announcement late Sunday evening, after a weekend full of anticipation ahead of the decision. Newsom had pledged previously to select a Black woman to fill Feinstein’s seat, should it ever become open, and Butler’s appointment fulfills that pledge.

In his announcement, Newsom noted that Butler also would make history as the first Black lesbian to openly serve as a U.S. senator.

“I’m proud to announce California’s new U.S. Senator—Laphonza Butler,” Newsom said. “As we mourn the enormous loss of Senator 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.”

Butler has been a labor leader as well as the leader of EMILY’S List, a powerful group that works to elect women.

Earlier this year, as some Democrats started calling for Feinstein to resign as she faced mounting health problems, several high-profile Democrats entered the competitive race in California to win the coveted seat in the Senate—notably, Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter, and Adam Schiff.

Newsom reiterated his pledge last month to select a Black woman if Feinstein were unable to fill her term, but he said he would not select anyone currently running for the seat, noting at the time that it would be “completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off.”

Newsom spokesman Anthony York told the Associated Press that the governor did not ask Butler to commit to staying out of the race. The deadline to submit the necessary paperwork to enter the 2024 race is December 8.

Butler currently lives in Maryland, according to her EMILY’s List biography, but a spokesperson for Newsom told the AP that she owns a home in California and plans to re-register to vote in California before she is sworn in.

Research contact: @thehill