On Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would appoint Democratic Strategist Laphonza Butler to the U.S. Senate left vacant after Dianne Feinstein’s passing.
In a statement, Newsom said, “As we mourn the enormous loss of Senator 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 Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington D.C.”
Butler is the president of EMILY’S List, a nationwide organization that works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, and she has a long history as a strategist and as a labor leader in California.
Her appointment to the U.S. Senate fulfills a pledge by Newsom to appoint a Black woman after Kamala Harris’s departure upon winning the vice presidency left Congress’s upper chamber with no Black women.
Butler will become the second Black woman to represent California in the chamber, after Harris, but she will also make history as the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate and the first Black lesbian to openly serve in Congress, according to the governor’s office.
Butler has also served as director of public policy and campaigns at Airbnb, advisor to Hillary Clinton, and spent almost a decade with Service Employees International Union in California.
Butler’s profile says she received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government from Jackson State University, which is a historically Black college or university (HBCU).
Politico adds that she worked closely with former California Governor Jerry Brown, “on policies like hiking the minimum wage to $15 per hour and raising taxes for wealthy Californians.”
The organization adds that she also served on the University of California Board of Regents.
Her appointment serves as the fulfillment of a promise made by Gov. Newsom in 2021 to fill the seat vacated by Kamala Harris with a Black woman.
“Newsom earned a bit of time on Saturday when the Senate cleared a stopgap funding bill late in the day, sending it to Biden’s desk for his signature. By that point, however, Newsom and aides were already well on their way to filling the seat, capping a dramatic chapter for the governor and his state and delivering to the Senate its first Black woman since Harris,” Politico wrote.