Newsom Names Former Labor Leader, Laphonza Butler, New U.S. Senator

Laphonza Butler, president of EMILY’s List — a political action committee focused on electing pro-choice, Democratic women — will replace the late U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and finish out her term through 2024, Gov. Gavin Newsom confirmed Sunday evening.

“An advocate for women and girls, a second-generation fighter for working people, and a trusted adviser to Vice President Harris, Laphonza Butler represents the best of California,” said Newsom in a statement. “Laphonza will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington D.C.”

Butler for many years was the president of SEIU Local 2015, a union representing long-term caregivers, before becoming a partner in a political consulting firm that counts Newsom among its clients. She later worked in public policy for Airbnb and was a University of California regent.

She will be the first LGBTQ+ person to represent California in the U.S. Senate, giving Newsom — who has appointed the state’s first Latino U.S. senator and the first openly gay justice to the California Supreme Court — the opportunity to rack up another “first.”

Among those celebrating: Planned Parenthood and the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality California.

“Laphonza has been an inspiration to so many, including myself, and I am so proud of our state and our representation right now,” said Jodi Hicks, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. “She will be an amazing advocate for Californians in the Senate.”

The news that Butler would succeed Feinstein, first reported by Politico, came as Newsom faced intense public pressure to appoint a Black woman to the job. This was, in part, due to his own comments following his 2020 appointment of Alex Padilla to the U.S. Senate after then-Sen. Kamala Harris was elected vice president. Newsom said if he got the chance to name a successor to Feinstein, he would want a Black woman.

But six months later on NBC’s “Meet the Press” — amid Feinstein’s declining health and decision not to seek reelection — Newsom said if given the opportunity he would make an “interim appointment” to avoid tipping “the balance” of a crowded March primary race.

The lineup already includes three high-profile Democratic candidates: Reps. Adam Schiff of Burbank, Katie Porter of Irvine, and Barbara Lee of Oakland.

The implication that a Black woman should only serve in the Senate in a caretaker capacity led to public outcry from Lee, who is Black, and her supporters.

Earlier on Sunday, the chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Steven Horsford, sent a letter to the governor urging him to pick Lee. And a number of Black female California politicians questioned why any Black woman would take the job knowing she had to give it up in little more than a year. A Los Angeles Times column by Erika D. Smith was headlined: “Newsom’s cynical pitch: Hey, you there, Black woman. Can you keep Feinstein’s seat warm?”

By late Sunday, the governor’s office confirmed to Alexei that his appointee would, in fact, be free to run for a full term; Newsom communications advisor Anthony York said he regretted not clearing up the confusion sooner.

No word on whether Butler intends to run — she now lives in Maryland, but a spokesperson for the governor said she owns a home in California and will re-register to vote here before being sworn into the Senate.



  1. Couldn’t find a woman POC LGBTQ+ that actually lives in California?

    You really didn’t try, did you.

    Checked those boxes and still a failure.

  2. It wasn’t just both boxes, but a triple play. It’s quad if you include relative youth.

    I don’t bash the selection as much as I otherwise might in a different example for her living in Bethesda — moneyed-site DC metro. The living-elsewhere part with this person looks a bit stupid more than like typical Dem carpetbagging support with its voters now knowing or caring, again. She lives in the DC area, not elsewhere in Maryland, and is a political player with a California background as well as being in DC now. Her background in California is 2009-2021, including as a UC Regent. Butler has recently been president of Emily’s List, which operates in DC, has an address there; being in Bethesda makes sense.

    I also believe that decision is better than selecting any of the known current candidates for the seat that will be in next year’s election, which would be giving the person an unfair advantage over the others.

  3. I love to watch you people circle the bowl and flush yourselves down the toilet.

    The rent increases CA will drive in my WA and ID properties are going to pay for my upgrades to first class.

    I thank you.

    My wife thanks you.

    The Bergerac brasserie I will be dining on duck confit at thanks you.

    How dumb can people be?

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