Newsom taps Laphonza Butler to fill Feinstein's Senate seat

Oct. 2 (UPI) -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced late Sunday that he has selected Laphonza Butler of EMILY'S List to fill the Senate seat of Dianne Feinstein, who died Thursday night at the age of 90.

Newsom announced Butler to finish Feinstein's Senate term, which runs through November 2024, in a statement, saying she will be California's first openly LGBTQ representative in the Senate and the first Black lesbian to openly serve in Congress in U.S. history.


"As we mourn the enormous loss of Sen. Feinstein, the very freedoms she fought for -- reproductive freedom, equal protection and safety from gun violence -- have never been under greater assault. Laphonza will carry the baton left by Sen. Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings and fight for all Californians in Washington, D.C.," the Democratic governor said.

Feinstein, the longest-serving woman in the Senate, died Thursday night at her home in Washington. Her death came amid questions swirling around her health and following criticism from members of her own Democratic Party over a recent lengthy absence from the Senate that had delayed confirmation votes for the Biden administration's judicial nominees.

The governor said to fill Feinstein's seat, Butler will resign as president of EMILY's List, a U.S. political action committed that seeks to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights to public office.

Newsom added that she has ran political campaigns and strategy efforts for companies, organizations and elected leaders, including Vice President Kamala Harris and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

She also served as director of the Board of Governors of the Los Angeles branch of the Federal Reserve System and was appointed by former California Gov. Jerry Brown to the University of California Board of Regents, a position she held from 2018 to 2021.


With Butler's appointment, Newsom makes good on his commitment, uttered as far back as 2021, to appoint a Black woman to Feinstein's seat if it became available.

In February, Feinstein had announced that she would not seek re-election in 2024, with Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee and Katie Porter in a fight for the Democratic nomination for the seat.

Earlier this month in an interview with NBC News' Meet the Press, Newsom had said he would not appoint any of the three candidates to the seat, saying he didn't want to get involved in the primary.

"It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off," he said. "That primary is just a matter of months away. I don't want to tip the balance of that."

Lee had balked at Newsom's remarks, describing the idea of appointing a Black woman to serve as "a caretaker" was insulting to all the Black woman who have carried the Democratic Party.

After Newsom's announcement, Lee on X, formerly known as Twitter, said that while she looks forward to working with Butler, she is "singularly focused" on winning her Senate campaign.


"CA deserves an experienced senator who will deliver on progressive priorities," she said. "That's exactly what I'm running to do."

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