Who is Laphonza Butler, California Gov. Newsom’s Senate pick to replace Feinstein?
California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Laphonza Butler to fill the state’s vacant Senate seat following the death of Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Butler, who served as Vice President Kamala Harris’ senior advisor during her 2020 presidential campaign, is on track to become the very first Black lesbian and third Black woman to serve in the Senate.
She will be the second Black U.S. senator to represent California, following Harris.
In nominating Butler, Newsom fulfilled his promise to select a Black woman to fill Feinstein’s seat in the event that she was unable to serve the rest of her term, which would’ve ended in 2024.
Butler took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to thank Newsom for nominating her to the upper chamber on Capitol Hill.
“I’m honored to accept Gov. @GavinNewsom’s nomination to be U.S. Senator for a state I have made my home and honored by his trust in me to serve the people of California and this great nation,” she wrote.
California Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff have all launched primary campaigns to serve in Feinstein’s seat. The winner of that contest will move on to the general election on Nov. 5, 2024.
Butler has not yet made clear whether she will seek election for a full term.
Butler will represent California; however, she is currently registered to vote in Maryland
The soon-to-be California senator is currently a resident of Silver Spring, Maryland, and has lived in the state since 2021. Before living in Maryland, she was a Los Angeles, California resident. She reportedly relocated to Maryland for work.
Butler worked at the union organization SEIU 2015
She served as the former president of SEIU Local 2015 and SEIU California, which is an organization that advocates for unions in several industries in the state. During her time with SEIU, she launched campaigns that helped union workers gain better wages. She was also a part of the initiative that helped workers earn a $15 minimum wage.
Currently, Butler is the president of Emily’s List, a political committee founded in 1985 that helps Democratic women in favor of abortion rights get elected to office.
In a public statement, the organization said, “Laphonza Butler is a groundbreaking leader who has done terrific work in her two years leading EMILYs List. While we will miss her at the helm, we couldn’t be prouder to see her sworn in as California’s newest senator.”
Once sworn in as Senator, Butler will have to resign from her position.
Who is Butler’s wife?
Butler is married to Neneki Lee, who is the national division director for public services at SEIU. The two have an 8-year-old daughter named Nylah.
In May 2022, she wrote an open letter to her daughter to encourage her to always fight for what she believes in.
“My assignment for you is to fight to be true to who you have shown me you are — a fearless, smart, kind person who cares deeply about others,” wrote Butler.
“One day, it will be your responsibility to stand up and defend those who can’t or may be afraid to use their own voice.”
How has the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) responded?
CBC Chairman Steven Horsford, D-Nev., and other CBC members issued a statement obtained by theGrio that said it “celebrates” Butler’s appointment.
“Her background and years of experience will bring a much-needed perspective to the Senate, which currently does not have any Black women,” the statement read.
“Laphonza Butler has been a champion for women and girls, students, and union workers…we look forward to welcoming Laphonza as the 59th member of the CBC and to continuing our work on behalf of the American people,” the statement continued.
Butler is slated to be sworn in this Tuesday. She will be sworn in by Harris, who as vice president serves as president of the Senate.
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