December 11, 2023

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is set to name longtime labor leader and political organizer Laphonza Butler to fill the U.S. Senate seat left open by the death last week of pioneering legislator Dianne Feinstein.

With Butler’s selection, Newsom will fulfill a commitment he is widely reported to have made to appoint a Black woman should a seat become open. Feinstein, who represented California in the Senate for 30 years in addition to serving as mayor of San Francisco, died Sept. 29 at the age of 90.

Butler at present is president of the EMILY’s List political fundraising organization. She was seen as high on the short-list for the appointment to fill the seat for 13 months until the 2024 election. It’s unclear if Butler intends to join the crowded race among Democrats to full Feinstein’s shoes in the august chamber. Longtime House members from the Golden State Adam Schiff and Barbara Lee are competing against upstart Orange County House rep Katie Porter.

News of Newsom’s selection was reported Sunday evening by Politico and the Los Angeles Times.

Butler spent more than a decade as a top leader at the Service Employees International Union. She also served a stint as head of public policy for AirBNB. Although Newsom has yet to confirm the news, SEIU was quick to congratulate its former president of Local 2015, which represents 325,000 nursing home and home-care workers in California. SEIU in a post on X called Butler “a tireless advocate for working people.”

Butler also served four years on the University of California’s Board of Regents and at present is a Regent Emerita. Butler joined EMILY’s List in September 2021.

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