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Gavin Newsom, the governor, selects Laphonza Butler to take Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat

President of EMILYs List, Butler helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights. She has long been a labor activist and was Kamala Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign senior advisor.

Vice President Harris will swear her in Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol.

Newsom said that since Sen. Feinstein’s death, reproductive freedom, equal protection, and gun violence protection have never been more threatened. Laphonza has fought for women, girls, and working people her whole career.”

He said, “She will make history — becoming the first Black lesbian to serve in the U.S. Senate openly.”

Butler became EMILYs List’s first woman of color leader in 2021. Her prior role at Airbnb was as public policy director.

“I’m honored to accept Gov. @GavinNewsom’s nomination to be U.S. Senator for a state I call home and his trust in me to serve California and this great nation,” Butler tweeted Monday.

“No one can match Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s legacy, but I will fight for women and girls, workers and unions, struggling parents, and California to commemorate her leaadership. Ready to service.”

Butler’s EMILYs List profile says, “She lives in Maryland with her partner Neneki Lee and their daughter Nylah.” A reporter checked overnight and found that phrase gone. Silver Spring resident Laphonza Butler registered to vote in Maryland.

The Associated Press writes that Newsom spokesman Izzy Gardon claimed Butler has a California house. The media reports that she will reregister to vote in California before being sworn in, maybe on Tuesday evening when the Senate returns to session.

Feinstein, 90, died last Monday with 15 months remaining in her tenure. As Congress works on longer-term government financing after a last-minute arrangement prevented a shutdown over the weekend, Butler’s quick confirmation will strengthen the Democrats’ Senate majority.

Politico announced Butler’s hire.

Newsom said he would nominate a Black woman to Feinstein’s position, but he prayed he never had to. Newsom also claimed he wouldn’t replace the seat with a 2024 challenger to Feinstein, calling it “completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off.”

Butler may run for a full term in 2024 without a temporary replacement requirement. Next year’s Democratic Senate primary and a special election for California voters to decide Feinstein’s last months complicate things.

After Feinstein’s retirement earlier this year, Reps Barbara Lee, Adam Schiff, and Katie Porter entered the 2024 contest. It was unclear whether they or Butler would run in the anticipated special election for Feinstein’s remaining term.

Lee said on a media outlet, “I wish LaphonzaB well and look forward to working with her to deliver for California. All I care about is winning my Senate race. CA needs an experienced progressive senator. That’s why I’m running.”

Schiff and Porter haven’t responded.

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Written by Aliyah Collins