California Governor Gavin Newsom has announced his appointment of Laphonza Butler, president of EMILY’s List, to fill the late Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat. This appointment is groundbreaking, as Butler will become the first openly Black lesbian to join Congress and the third Black female senator in US history.
Feinstein, who held the title of the longest-serving female US senator, passed away last week at the age of 90. As the state mourns her loss, Butler’s appointment brings hope and diversity to the Senate.
Butler brings a wealth of experience to her new role. having previously worked at Airbnb and served as an adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris during her 2020 presidential campaign. Her history in California politics is well-established and provides a strong foundation for her Senate service.
Newsom had made a promise to appoint a Black woman to Feinstein’s seat should she choose to resign before the end of her term. While many had anticipated Barbara Lee as the frontrunner for the position, Newsom decided to select Butler instead. The decision was met with mixed reactions, as some had hoped for Lee’s appointment. However, Newsom clarified that his selection was not influenced by the current candidates seeking the office.
Importantly, Newsom’s office has stated that there were no conditions placed on Butler’s appointment, and any decision to run for a full term would be left to her discretion. This indicates that Butler has the option to pursue a permanent position in the Senate.
It is noteworthy that California will hold two Senate elections next November – a special election for the remaining months of Feinstein’s term and another for a full six-year term. Both races will have primaries in March with all candidates running on the same ballot. The top two candidates from each primary will advance to the general election.
This appointment follows Newsom’s previous decision to appoint Alex Padilla as Kamala Harris’ successor in the Senate, making him the first Latino senator from California. Padilla welcomed Butler to the Senate and praised her advocacy for working families and LGBTQ rights.
Butler’s appointment comes at a crucial time, as Democrats currently hold a narrow Senate majority. Additionally, uncertainty surrounds the political future of Senator Bob Menendez, who faces a federal indictment. Butler’s presence and her commitment to progressive causes will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the Senate.
As California continues to mourn the loss of Senator Feinstein, the appointment of Laphonza Butler brings renewed energy and representation to the state’s political landscape. Her historic position as the first openly Black lesbian in Congress and one of the few Black female senators highlights the progress being made towards a more inclusive and diverse government. The upcoming Senate elections in California will undoubtedly be closely watched, as the state navigates these political changes.
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