Laphonza Butler has been appointed to join the U.S. Senate representing California, becoming the first openly LGBTQ+ United States Senator from California and the first Black lesbian to serve in the Senate. Butler will finish the Senate term of Dianne Feinstein who died late last week at age 90. Governor Gavin Newsom selected Butler to finish Feinstein’s term which ends in 2024.
Butler has been a longtime senior advisor to Vice President Kamala Harris and was president of EMILY’s List, a political action committee that supports pro-choice Democratic women in politics. According to Gov. Newsom’s official press release on Butler’s appointment, she has a long history in politics, running political campaigns and strategy efforts for companies, organizations, and leaders, including Kamala Harris and Hilary Clinton. Before that she served as the president of the largest labor union in California, SEIU, which is comprised of about 2 million members including nursing home and home-care workers. She was even named “Champion for Change” by former President Barack Obama.
“I am humbled by the Governor’s trust. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s leadership and legacy are immeasurable. I will do my best to honor her by devoting my time and energy to serving the people of California and the people of this great nation,” Butler said a statement released on Monday.
The new Senator will take the place of Dianne Feinstein, who served as a Senator for California for nearly 30 years between 1992 and 2023. With her passing, Newsom makes good on a promise he made years ago that he would appoint a Black woman to the Senate if a spot became available. Though there are already candidates vying for the position in 2024, Newsom opted to elect an interim Senator. It remains unknown whether Butler will run to keep her spot in the 2024 race.
“An advocate for women and girls, a second-generation fighter for working people, and a trusted adviser to Vice President Harris, Laphonza Butler represents the best of California, and she’ll represent us proudly in the United States Senate,” said Governor Newsom.