Gavin Newsom has picked Laphonza Butler to fill Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has chosen Laphonza Butler to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the death of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, two sources familiar with the decision confirmed to CBS News.

Butler is the president of EMILYs List, an organization devoted to electing Democratic women who support abortion rights. Butler was the first woman of color to lead Emily’s List when she joined the organization in 2021. She previously served as a senior campaign adviser to Kamala Harris during her 2020 presidential campaign. She also served as director of public policy at Airbnb and has a long history as a labor leader.

Butler was not immediately available for comment.   

Feinstein, who was 90 years old, had about 15 months left in her term at the time of her death last week. Butler’s speedy appointment will help bolster the Democrats’ narrow majority in the Senate as Congress continues to work on longer-term funding for the government after a last-minute deal temporarily averted a shutdown over the weekend.

Politico first reported Butler’s appointment. 

EMILYs List President Laphonza Butler
EMILYs List President Laphonza Butler on March 7, 2023.

Araya Doheny/Getty Images for EMILYs List

Earlier this month on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Newsom said he would abide by his pledge to appoint a Black woman to Feinstein’s post, while adding that he hoped he’d never have to make that decision. But Newsom also said he wouldn’t fill the seat with one of the Democrats vying to succeed Feinstein in the 2024 election, calling such a move “completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off.” 

There is no precondition that this must be a temporary replacement, so Butler could run for a full term in 2024. Complicating matters, in addition to next year’s scheduled Democratic Senate primary, a special election is expected to be held for California voters to choose who finishes out the last few months of Feinstein’s term.

Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Katie Porter are among those who jumped into the 2024 race after Feinstein announced earlier this year that she would not run again. It was not immediately clear if any of them, or Butler, would also enter the expected special election for the remainder of Feinstein’s term.

In a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Lee said, “I wish @LaphonzaB well and look forward to working closely with her to deliver for the Golden State. I am singularly focused on winning my campaign for Senate. CA deserves an experienced Senator who will deliver on progressive priorities. That’s exactly what I’m running to do.”

Schiff and Porter have not reacted yet.

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