California’s governor has chosen Laphonza Butler, a Democratic strategist who was an adviser to Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign, to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Senator Dianne Feinstein.
So Governor Gavin Newsom made good on his promise to appoint a black woman if Feinstein’s seat became vacant. However, he faced pressure from some black politicians and activists to nominate Barbara Lee, a prominent black legislator who was running for the seat.
Butler is the only Black woman in the US Senate and the first openly LGBTQ+ woman to represent California in the upper chamber.
In his statement, Newsom noted that the reasons Feinstein fought so hard for – reproductive freedom, equal protections and the fight against gun violence – are in danger throughout the country. “Laphonza will pick up the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break down barriers for women and fight in Washington DC for all Californians,” the governor said.
Butler is the director of Emily’s List, a political organization that supports Democratic candidates who defend abortion rights. He is also the leader of the SEIU 2015 union, a political force in California.
Her appointment heralds a potentially dangerous political situation given the large number of candidates running to succeed Feinstein, a contest that began at the beginning of the year.
Anthony York, a spokesman for Newsom, said the governor did not ask Butler to commit not to run. The application deadline is Dec. 8. If Butler runs, it could spark a tight race among California’s relatively small but influential black community, hurting Lee’s chances.
Emily’s List is very effective at raising money, and money is essential to winning any race in California. In his statement, Newsom said that Butler will resign from his position in the organization.
The decision could affect the politics of Newsom, who is seen as a possible future national leader. The favorite candidate of black voters has won the Democratic presidential nomination in every election since 1992. The Black Caucus is one of the groups calling on Newsom to appoint Lee, considering him the best qualified person for the job.