California Governor Gavin Newsom has selected Laphonza Butler to fill the senate seat left vacant by the death of Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Butler’s Senate appointment is historic as she will be only the third Black woman to serve in the U.S. Senate and the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate, Politico reports.
Butler has led EMILY’s List, an organization dedicated to electing Democratic women, since 2021. She is the first Black woman to lead this organization. She posted a tribute to Feinstein on social media on Friday, calling her “a titan in the Senate” and “a legendary figure for women in politics and around the country.”
Butler’s professional career has strong ties to California, where she previously led SEIU Local 2015, the state’s largest union. She has also served on the University of California Board of Regents and worked for Airbnb in a public policy and campaigns role in North America.
Governor Newsom, a Democrat, had given significant hints in recent months about how he would choose Feinstein’s replacement if her seat became empty. He previously stated that he would appoint a Black woman if either of California’s Senate seats became available.
Butler currently resides in Maryland but owns a home in California and intends to switch her voter registration to California, as required for her appointment to the Senate seat. She will serve as Senator until the next regularly scheduled statewide general election in November 2024, when voters will choose the permanent replacement.
It is expected that Butler will be sworn into the U.S. Senate on Wednesday by Vice President Kamala Harris.