California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will appoint EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler to fill the remaining term of Sen. Dianne Feinstein who passed away last week.
The official announcement is expected to come today. The longtime trailblazing senator passed away at her Washington D.C. home Thursday night.
Butler is expected to be sworn-in to the seat on Wednesday by Vice President Kamala Harris, becoming the first openly LGBTQ individual to represent California in the Senate.
Feinstein had already announced she would not seek re-election in 2024. In anticipation of her stepping down sooner, Newsom had promised to appoint a Black woman as her immediate successor and not to choose one of the leading candidates for election to a full term in the seat. Newsom kept both promises.
A Newsom adviser Anthony York told Politico that the California governor is making the appointment without putting limitations on Butler when it comes to running for Senate in the upcoming elections. That means Butler could decide to join the already crowded field of Democrats running to succeed Feinstein in 2024, though it seems unlikely.
Reps. Katie Porter (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) have already thrown their hats into the ring for the March 2024 primary.
As far back as 2021, Newsom committed to nominating a Black woman to Feinstein’s seat if she resigned before completing her full term.
After Lee publicly announced her Senate bid, she became the obvious choice for many to replace Feinstein if Newsom had to appoint a successor. But Newsom shut down that idea, saying he did not want to “tip the balance” for the upcoming primary by appointing someone who is already in the race.
“It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off,” Newsom said on “Meet the Press” earlier this month. “That primary is just a matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance of that.”
Over the weekend, Lee enthusiasts upped the pressure on Newsom. Congressional Black Caucus Chair Steven Horsford even wrote to Newsom urging him to appoint Lee to the empty seat.
The letter said the Black caucus is commending the governor for his “courageous commitment to rectify the gross imbalance in representation in the higher chamber by appointing a Black woman to fill the seat, and want to voice our strong support for Congresswoman Barbara Lee for that appointment.”
“She is the only person with the courage, the vision, and the record to eradicate poverty, face down the fossil fuel industry, defend our democracy, and tirelessly advance the progressive agenda,” Horsford wrote.
Butler is a veteran organizer and well known in political circles. She previously served as a senior strategist on Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign.
Based in Washington, she had a stint as director for public policy and campaigns at Airbnb and spent nearly two decades as a labor leader with the Service Employees International Union. As president of SEIU California, she worked with then-Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to hike the minimum wage to $15 per hour and to raise taxes for wealthy Californians. She also served on the University of California Board of Regents, appointed by Brown in 2018 and stepping down in 2021.