Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler address a Biden-Harris campaign rally on the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision which struck down a federal right to abortion at the Mayflower Hotel on June 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Governor Gavin Newsom has appointed a replacement to fill Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat.
Laphonza Butler, president of EMILY’s List, will be the third Black woman to ever serve in the Senate.
Butler will also become the first openly gay U.S. senator from California.
California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed EMILY’s List president Laphonza Butler to fill the Senate seat left vacant after the death of Dianne Feinstein.
Who is Laphonza Butler?
Butler is currently the president of EMILYs List, an organization working to get Democratic, pro-choice women elected to state and nationwide offices.
Previously, Butler worked as a policy director for Airbnb and political consulting firm SCRB Strategies, according to her EMILY’s List biography. At SCRB, she worked alongside Newsom’s most prominent strategists, per the LA Times. She was a senior advisor for current US Vice President Kamala Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign and in Hillary Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 presidential campaigns.
She also has extensive experience in labor activism, and served as president of SEIU Local 2015, which represents long-term caregivers in California, for nearly a decade. During her time there, she advocated to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, per her EMILYs List bio.
Butler shares a significant history with Harris, per the Times. The two met in 2010 when Harris was campaigning for CA attorney general. In the primary for that election, Butler helped Harris get a triple endorsement from her union. When Harris won, she said Butler was a supporter from the start of her campaign, per the Times.
From 2018 to 2021, Butler served as a Regent for the University of California, per the Board of Regents website.
She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Jackson State University in 2001, per her LinkedIn.
Butler has previous connections to Newsom outside of SCRB — at one point, she was being considered for the position of his chief of staff, per Politico.
The late Sen. Dianne Feinstein on April 4, 2022.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File
A tough race developing for Dianne Feinstein’s seat
The move adheres to Newsom’s 2021 promise to fill an open seat by appointing a Black woman. It also comes after the Governor promised in early September to appoint a caretaker to a Senate seat left empty by Feinstein, saying it would be “completely unfair” to tap a candidate so close to the 2024 primary. That pledge has since been walked back.
“That primary is just a matter of months away,” Newsom had said, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I don’t want to tip the balance of that.”
A spokesperson for Newsom previously confirmed to Insider that the new appointee to replace Dianne Feinstein in the Senate will be eligible to run for a full term in 2024, a reversal of his original pledge to appoint a caretaker.
Progressives had been pressuring the Governor to tap Rep. Barbara Lee for the seat.
Representatives from Newsom’s office confirmed Butler’s appointment to Insider but did not offer any additional statement regarding the Governor’s choice.