Who Is Laphonza Butler?

Meet the Black, LGBTQ woman replacing Dianne Feinstein.

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Two days after Dianne Feinstein’s death, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) has chosen her replacement. On Sunday, Newsom announced that Laphonza Butler, president of the pro-choice political action committee EMILY’s List, will fill the seat of the late California senator. Butler will be the second Black woman and the first openly LGBTQ member to serve as California’s senator.

“As we mourn the enormous loss of Senator Feinstein, the very freedoms she fought for—reproductive freedom, equal protection, and safety from gun violence—have never been under greater assault,” wrote Newsom in a statement. “Laphonza will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington DC.”

As my colleague, Abby Vesoulis, wrote ahead of Newsom’s announcement, the selection of Butler makes good on his 2021 promise to appoint a Black woman to replace Feinstein should she leave the Senate early.

In September 2021, Butler became the first Black president of EMILY’s List. Her political roots are thoroughly in California, having served as a member of the University of California Board of Regents and Democratic strategist for Vice President Kamala Harris in the 2020 election. Newsom credited Butler’s work fighting for labor rights with playing a key role in his decision to appoint her. Some have criticized Butler’s history of working for tech giants, specifically as Airbnb’s director for public policy, and her work representing Uber.

Vice President Harris is expected to perform the swearing-in.

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