California Gov. Gavin Newsom says he will appoint Laphonza Butler to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Dianne Feinstein, who died last week at age 90, The Associated Press is reporting.
Newsom made the announcement on Sunday.
Butler is the president of EMILY’s List, which works to elect pro-abortion-rights Democrats to office across the country, and was an adviser on Vice President Kamala Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign.
“From her time as President of EMILY’s List to leading the state’s largest labor union, she has always stood up for what is right and has led with her heart and her values,” Newsom said in his statement.
When she is sworn in, which is expected in days, she will become the second Black woman after Harris to represent California in the Senate and the first Black lesbian to openly serve in Congress, the statement from Newsom’s office said.
According to the statement, Butler grew up in a working-class family in Magnolia, Mississippi. Her father died when Butler was 16 and her mother was the sole provider for Butler and her two siblings.
“We weren’t the family that talked about elections or politics at the dinner table, but we were the family that talked about what it meant to be in service to others,” Butler said, adding that her mother’s influence “propels me forward.”
Butler will step aside from her role at EMILY’s List with her appointment to the Senate.
Newsom’s choice of Butler fulfilled his pledge to appoint a Black woman if Feinstein’s seat became open.
Newsom said the priorities Feinstein fought for in Congress — reproductive freedom, equal protection and safety from gun violence — were under assault in the nation.
“Laphonza will carry the baton left by Sen. Feinstein (and) continue to break glass ceilings and fight for all Californians in Washington D.C.,” he said.
The seat is up for election in November 2024. Butler will fill Feinstein’s seat through the end of Feinstein’s term in early January 2025, before the winner of the November election is sworn in.