Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat who supported abortion rights and passed away last week at the age of 90, will be succeeded by a strategist who heads a group dedicated to electing Democratic women.
Laphonza Butler, 44, was appointed to the position by California Governor Gavin Newsom. Electing Democratic women who favor abortion rights is the mission of EMILYs List, which Laphonza Butler leads. She has a long experience as a labor leader and previously worked as Kamala Harris’ top campaign strategist during her 2020 presidential bid.
She will represent California in the Senate as the state’s sole black female senator and the first out-gay person.
The oldest senator was Ms. Feinstein, a pioneer for female legislators. According to Californian law, the governor has the power to select a senator until the subsequent general election.
Laphonza Butler will serve out Feinstein’s remaining term in Washington, D.C., before the 2024 election. In a statement, the governor characterized Butler as an advocate for girls and women, a 2nd-generation warrior for those who work, and an admired advisor to Vice President Harris.
The freedoms that Senator Feinstein battled for, like the right to an abortion, equal protection under the law, and protection from gun violence, have never been more threatened, according to Newsom. Laphonza will continue to break down barriers and fight for all Californians in Washington, D.C., despite Senator Feinstein leaving behind a hefty workload–Newsom.
Newsom said that Laphonza has dedicated her entire professional life to advocating for working people and women and girls. She’ll break ground by becoming the first openly Black lesbian senator in American history.
Additionally, Ms. Laphonza Butler has experience leading unions and serving as Airbnb’s head of public policy. Prior to Ms. Feinstein’s passing last month, Mr. Newsom promised to choose a black woman to fill the balance of Ms. Feinstein’s tenure, which runs through the November 2024 elections. He expressed his hope that he wouldn’t have to make that choice, though.
Prior to the primary, Newsom made a promise to select a Black woman to fill any vacancies in the Senate. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., called the commitment “insulting” to Black women because it would only be a temporary position.
The statement was made by Lee, who has already filed to run for Feinstein’s seat. She has previously stated that “The notion that a Black woman ought to be selected as a caregiver for ticking a box is offensive to the many Black women in this nation who have helped the Democratic Party win elections after elections.”
Although Ms. Feinstein had previously stated her intention to retire at the end of the year, she resisted mounting pressure on her to do so. Several well-known Democrats have declared they would compete for her Senate seat, including Congressmen Adam Schiff and Katie Porter.
US President Mr. Joe Biden said that Ms. Feinstein “created history in numerous capacities, and our country will reap the rewards from her legacy for generations” in a statement following her passing.
When Feinstein passed away last week, she had around 15 months left in her term even though she was 90 years old. Laphonza Butler’s prompt appointment will support the Democrats’ slim Senate majority as Congress continues to negotiate longer-term funding for the government following a last-minute agreement that prevented a shutdown over the weekend.
Ms. Feinstein served as the first female senator to lead the influential Senate Intelligence Committee, where she oversaw a lengthy investigation of the CIA’s contentious program for questioning foreign terrorists in the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in 2001. Legislation prohibiting the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding on suspected terrorists was ultimately a result of the review.
Laphonza Butler’s EMILYs List Profile
According to Butler’s EMILYs List profile, “She lives with her partner Neneki Lee and their daughter Nylah, in Maryland.” But when CBS News examined that statement the next morning, it was gone. According to voting records in Maryland that CBS News has access to, Silver Spring resident Laphonza Butler is registered to vote there.
According to the Associated Press, Laphonza Butler owns a house in California, according to Newsom spokesperson Izzy Gardon. The AP reports that she intends to reregister to vote in California before taking the oath of office and that it may happen as soon as Tuesday night when the Senate resumes its regular session.
A query for clarification from CBS News did not receive a prompt response from Laphonza Butler.