California's Newest Senator Makes Her Decision on 2024

Laphonza Butler won't seek election to a full term next year
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 20, 2023 1:30 AM CDT
California's Newest Senator Won't Seek Election to Full Term
Laphonza Butler, D-Calif., is seen during a re-enactment of her swearing-in ceremony to the Senate to succeed the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

Newly appointed California Democratic Sen. Laphonza Butler announced Thursday she will not seek election to a full term in 2024, avoiding what would have been a costly and bruising race for the seat held for three decades by the late Dianne Feinstein, the AP reports. Butler—who was named earlier this month by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to complete Feinstein's remaining term—said in a statement she made the decision after considering "what kind of life I want to have, what kind of service I want to offer and what kind of voice I want to bring forward." "Knowing you can win a campaign doesn't always mean you should run a campaign. I know this will be a surprise to many because traditionally we don't see those who have power let it go," Butler added. "It may not be the decision people expected, but it's the right one for me."

Her candidacy would have complicated an already crowded race that includes several other prominent Democrats—US Reps. Katie Porter, Adam Schiff, and Barbara Lee—and Republican Steve Garvey, a former Major League Baseball star. Butler, a Democratic insider and former labor leader, had never held public office before joining the Senate. Had she entered the race that has been underway since January, Butler would have faced challenging financial and political hurdles on a tight timeline, all while contending with her new job in Washington at a time of global crises. Mail ballots for the March 5 primary go out in early February, meaning she would have just months to raise millions of dollars for TV advertising while building a campaign organization capable of competing in the nation's most populous state, with about 22 million registered voters.

Schiff, by comparison, has a $32 million head start and an endorsement from former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. While Butler is well known in California Democratic circles, she would be an unknown to many voters. As a candidate, Butler would also have faced a sensitive prospect competing with Lee, whom Black leaders and political activists had urged Newsom to appoint to the seat after the governor earlier promised to appoint a Black woman should Feinstein's seat become vacant. California has a relatively small Black population at 6%, but those voters make up a core constituency for the Democratic Party. In a tweet, Lee wrote that Butler "took on the enormous responsibility of filling an open Senate seat with grace, integrity and a deep commitment to delivering for the people of California. I look forward to continuing our work together for the remainder of her term."

(More Election 2024 stories.)

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