Gavin Newsom chooses Democratic strategist Laphonza Butler to fill late Senator Dianne Feinstein’s seat after promising veteran lawmaker’s replacement would be a black woman


California Governor Gavin Newsom will name Laphonza Butler, a Democrat 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 United States Senate seat held by the Feinstein, who died on Thursday at the age of 90. 

Newsom told MSNBC host Joy Reid back in March that he planned to fill the seat with a black woman should it become open.

‘I have multiple names in mind. We have multiple names in mind — and the answer is yes,’ he said when asked. 

He had been facing pressure by the Congressional Black Caucus and other advocacy groups to select Rep. Barbara Lee, a prominent black congresswoman who is already running for the seat. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom will name Laphonza Butler, a Democrat 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 that he appoint Lee, who has served in Congress since 1998. 

Lee is facing off against fellow California Congressmembers Adam Schiff and Katie Porter in an attempt to win the 2024 race in a state that hasn’t sent a Republican to the Senate since 1992.

Butler leads Emily’s List, a political organization that supports Democratic women candidates who favor abortion rights. 

She also is a former labor leader with SEIU 2015, a powerful force in California politics. Butler will be the first out 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 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 filings that were shared by X users showed her living in the state as recently as last month. Her LinkedIn page shows her as residing in the ‘Los Angeles Metropolitan Area.’

Democrats control the Senate 51-49, though Feinstein´s seat is vacant. A quick appointment by Newsom will give the Democratic caucus more wiggle room on close votes, including nominations that Republicans uniformly oppose. 

Butler could be sworn in as early as Tuesday evening when the Senate returns to session.

Newsom told MSNBC host Joy Reid back in March that he planned to fill the seat with a black woman should it become open

Newsom told MSNBC host Joy Reid back in March that he planned to fill the seat with a black woman should it become open

Butler leads Emily's List, a political organization that supports Democratic women candidates who favor abortion rights

Butler leads Emily’s List, a political organization that supports Democratic women candidates who favor abortion rights 

Democrats control the Senate 51-49, though Feinstein´s seat is vacant after she died on Thursday

Democrats control the Senate 51-49, though Feinstein´s seat is vacant after she died on Thursday

Butler's bio on Emily's List, where she serves as president, deleted a detail showing she lived in Maryland within hours of the announcement leaking that Newsom would appoint her

Butler’s bio on Emily’s List, where she serves as president, deleted a detail showing she lived in Maryland within hours of the announcement leaking that Newsom would appoint her

Though her bio and FEC filings suggested that she lives in Maryland, she lists the 'Los Angeles Metropolitan Area' as her location on LinkedIn

Though her bio and FEC filings suggested that she lives 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 age 90 after a series of illnesses. She said in February she was would not seek reelection in 2024. 

Lee is one of several prominent Democrats competing 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 that have worked their tail off,’ he told NBC News a few weeks ago. ‘That primary is just a matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance of that.’

An L.A. Times / Berkeley IGS poll this week had California Rep. Adam Schiff leading the field with 20 per cent. Schiff, a former House impeachment manager, was followed by Rep. Katie Porter at 17 per cent and Lee at 7 per cent. 

His spokesman Anthony York said the governor did not ask Butler to commit to staying out of the race. December 8 is the deadline for candidates to file for the office.

Butler has never held elected office but has a long track record in California politics. 

She served as a senior adviser to Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign while working at a political firm filled with strategists who have worked for Newsom and many other prominent state Democrats. She also briefly worked in the private sector for Airbnb.

Barbara Lee, D-Calif., is already running for the Senate seat. The Congressional Black Caucus wrote a letter Sunday urging Newsom to appoint her

Barbara Lee, D-Calif., is already running for the Senate seat. The Congressional Black Caucus wrote a letter 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. Katie Porter is battling Lee and Rep. Adam Schiff in the 2024 race for the vacant Feinstein seat

Rep. Adam Schiff is leading early polls. He served as a House impeachment manager in the Senate

Rep. Adam Schiff is leading 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 that he appoint Lee, who has served in Congress since 1998

The Congressional Black Caucus wrote an open letter to Newsom earlier Sunday asking that he appoint Lee, who has served in Congress since 1998

Butler called Feinstein ‘a legendary figure for women in politics and around 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 Newsom´s first time selecting a U.S. senator, after being 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 gathering force inside his own party. The Biden campaign dispatched him to Simi Valley this week as a counter spokesman for the Republican presidential debate.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has authority to appoint a successor to the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein. He said amid Feinstein's health problems that he would name a black woman to the seat. Three prominent state Democrats are already battling in the primary for the seat

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has authority to appoint a successor to the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein. He said amid Feinstein’s health problems that he would name a black woman to the seat. Three prominent state Democrats are already battling in the primary for the seat

He is set to debate Florida Gov. 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 polling problems for Biden, 80, and concerns by insiders that public perceptions of his age and vitality could harm his chances. 

Newsom in a statement Friday called Feinstein a ‘political giant’ who ‘broke down barriers and glass ceilings.’

He called her a ‘powerful, trailblazing US senator’ and a ‘leader in times of tragedy and chaos.’

In words underlining the challenging of choosing someone to succeed her, he said ‘there is simply nobody who possessed the poise, gravitas, and fierceness of Dianne Feinstein.’

The seat is expected to stay in Democratic hands in the 2024 election. Democrats in the liberal-leaning state have not lost a statewide election since 2006, and the party holds a nearly 2-to-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans.



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