Politics /

Newsom Appoints First Black Lesbian to U.S. Senate

This Is Newsom's Second United States Senate Appointment

California Governor Gavin Newsom has appointed a new senator to fill the late Senator Dianne Feinstein’s seat.

Laphonza Butler will finish out Feinstein’s term, set to end in January 2025.

Butler will be the first openly LGBTQ Senator to represent California in the United States Senate. The Senate-designate is also the president of Emily’s List political action committee (PAC), which assists in electing Democratic women in favor of abortion access. Butler has served as president of the PAC since 2021.

“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,” Newsom announced in an X post. “Laphonza has spent her entire career fighting for women and girls and has been a fierce advocate for working people.”

“She will make history — becoming the first Black lesbian to openly serve in the U.S. Senate. From her time as President of EMILY’s List to leading the state’s largest labor union, she has always stood up for what is right and has led with her heart and her values,” he continued. “I have no doubt she will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington.”

Critics of Newsom’s appointment noted Butler appears to have been a resident of Maryland as recently as Aug. 31, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

According to other FEC and California Fair Political Practices Commission (FFPC) filings, Butler has not resided in California in over two years.

It is unclear if Butler will launch a campaign in 2024 seeking a full Senate term. California representatives Adam Schiff, Katie Hill, and Barbara Lee have launched campaigns seeking Feinstein’s Senate seat in the 2024 election.

Prior to Butler’s appointment, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) urged Newsom to appoint Lee, a black woman, to Feinstein’s seat.

“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,” CBC Chairman Steven Horsford wrote Sunday in a letter to Newsom. “For these reasons, we strongly urge you to appoint Congresswoman Barbara Lee to the United States Senate.”

This is Newsom’s second United States Senate designation following Alex Padilla’s 2021 appointment after former California Senator Kamala Harris assumed office as Vice President of the United States.

Feinstein’s health plagued her office since February when she was hospitalized after contracting shingles. Feinstein also suffered brain swelling as well as Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which left her with partial facial paralysis. In May, Feinstein returned from a three-month absence stemming from her ailing health. In August, she was hospitalized after falling in her home.

Feinstein, who served as mayor of San Francisco from November 1978 until January 1988, passed away on Sept. 29 after a 30-year career in the United States Senate.

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