Laphonza Butler Is America's Newest Senator

Third Black woman to serve in Senate was sworn in by the second
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 2, 2023 6:19 AM CDT
Updated Oct 3, 2023 3:14 PM CDT
She's Expected to Be a Senator in 2 Days
Laphonza Butler, President of Emily's List, speaks during an event in Washington, Friday, June 23, 2023.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
UPDATE Oct 3, 2023 3:14 PM CDT

America's newest senator, Democratic Sen. Laphonza Butler, was sworn in to replace the late Sen. Barbara Feinstein on Tuesday, making history in more ways than one. Butler, president of the Emily's List fundraising group, is the third Black woman to serve in the Senate and she was sworn in by the second, Vice President Kamala Harris, Axios reports. The 44-year-old former union leader appointed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom is also the first openly LGBTQ+ senator from California, reports the AP. "I know that our old colleague is looking down at this moment with pride," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the swearing-in ceremony.

Oct 2, 2023 6:19 AM CDT

The woman who will become the newest US senator may not be a household name nationally, but she is a familiar figure in California political circles. Gov. Gavin Newsom has picked Laphonza Butler to fill the seat of the late Dianne Feinstein, reports Politico. Some basics:

  • Butler, 44, is the president of Emily's List, a powerful fundraising group that backs female candidates who support abortion rights, per the New York Times. She previously led the state's biggest labor union and served as a strategist to Vice President Kamala Harris during Harris' 2020 presidential run. The two have remained close since then, per Politico.
  • Butler will be the first openly LGBTQ+ senator to represent California, notes the AP.
  • She will be the only Black woman in the Senate when Harris swears her in, which is expected to happen on Wednesday.

  • The choice fulfills Newsom's promise to appoint a Black woman should a vacancy open up. Butler will fill the seat until next year's election, and she could choose to run for a full term at that point (Newsom placed no restrictions in that regard, the Times notes). Already in the race are Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee, Adam Schiff, and Katie Porter.
  • The AP notes that Newsom had been under pressure from some Black political leaders to select Lee, who also is Black, for the interim post, but the governor said he did not want to give any of the stated candidates an unfair advantage next year.
(More Dianne Feinstein stories.)

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