Gov. Newsom Picks Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler for Sen. Feinstein’s Seat

Gov. Newsom Picks Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler for Sen. Feinstein’s Seat

By Eric Mack    |   Sunday, 01 October 2023 11:16 PM EDT

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has reportedly wasted no time selecting the replacement for late-Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., picking an abortion activist and chief of a Democrat fundraising beast.

Newsom is planning to appoint Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler to the Senate seat, a source told Politico on Sunday night.

The governor is assigned to appoint a replacement for the late sitting senator and the selection is one that has led the Democrat fundraising giant on the issue of abortion.

Newsom’s selection is expected to serve through the 2024 election.

Butler is a Democrat strategist and was adviser to Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign.

In choosing Butler, Newsom fulfilled his pledge to appoint a Black woman. However, he had been facing pressure by some Black politicians and advocacy groups to select Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., a prominent Black congresswoman who is already running for the seat.

Butler leads Emily’s List, a political organization that supports Democrat women candidates who favor abortion rights.

She also is a former labor leader with SEIU 2015, a powerful force in California politics.

Butler currently lives in Maryland, according to her Emily’s List biography.

She did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman in Newsom’s office who declined to be named confirmed to The Associated Press that Newsom had chosen Butler.

Democrats control the Senate 51-49, though Feinstein’s seat is vacant. A quick appointment by Newsom will give the Democrat caucus more wiggle room on close votes, including nominations that Republicans uniformly oppose. She could be sworn in as early as Tuesday evening when the Senate returns to session.

Feinstein, the oldest member of Congress and the longest-serving woman in the Senate, died at age 90 after a series of illnesses. She said in February she was would not seek reelection in 2024. Lee is one of several prominent Democrats competing for the seat, including California Democrat Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff.

Newsom said he did not want to appoint any of the candidates because it would give them an unfair advantage in the race.

His spokesman Anthony York said the governor did not ask Butler to commit to staying out of the race. Dec. 8 is the deadline for candidates to file for the office.

Butler has never held elected office but has a long track record in California politics. She served as a senior adviser to Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign while working at a political firm filled with strategists who have worked for Newsom and many other prominent state Democrats. She also briefly worked in the private sector for Airbnb.

She called Feinstein “a legendary figure for women in politics and around the country,” in a statement posted after Feinstein’s death.

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overrule Roe v. Wade, the abortion issue has become a galvanizing one for many Democrats.

It is not Newsom’s first time selecting a U.S. senator, after being tasked with choosing a replacement for Kamala Harris when she was elected vice president; at that time he selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla for the post. It was one of a string of appointments Newsom made in late 2020 and early 2021, a power that gave him kingmaker status among the state’s ambitious Democrats.

The seat is expected to stay in Democrat hands in the 2024 election. Democrats in the liberal-leaning state have not lost a statewide election since 2006, and the party holds a nearly 2-to-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.