California Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday announced the selection of Laphonza Butler to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Butler, the president of EMILY’s List, a national organization dedicated to electing women who support abortion rights, will be the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate.
She will also be the first Black lesbian to serve in Congress in American history and the second Black woman to represent California in the Senate following Vice President Kamala Harris.
“An advocate for women and girls, a second-generation fighter for working people, and a trusted adviser to Vice President Harris, Laphonza Butler represents the best of California, and she’ll represent us proudly in the United States Senate,” said Newsom.
“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,” said Newsom. “Laphonza will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington D.C.”
Butler, a longtime senior adviser to Harris, labor leader, and advocate for women and working people, comes from a working-class family. Her father was diagnosed with a terminal illness and died when Butler was 16 years old.
Her mother was the household’s sole provider, working as a classroom aide, a home care provider, a security guard, and a bookkeeper to provide for Butler and her two siblings.
Butler has a long history of public service and activism. She served as president of SEIU United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW) and SEIU’s Property Services Division Director, and as an SEIU International Vice President and president of the SEIU California State Council.
She was also a board member for the National Children’s Defense Fund, BLACK PAC, and the Bay Area Economic Council Institute, and a fellow for the MIT Community Innovators Lab.
In 2018, Butler was appointed to the University of California Board of Regents by Governor Jerry Brown, where she served until 2021. She was named a “Champion for Change” by President Barack Obama.
Butler received a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Jackson State University. She is married to her wife, Neneki, and together they have a daughter, Nylah.
Governor Newsom praised Butler’s qualifications and experience in a statement announcing her selection.
Butler will step down from her role as president of EMILY’s List to assume her new role in the Senate. She is expected to be sworn in in the coming weeks.
Butler’s selection is a significant moment for California and for the nation’s LGBTQ community. She will be the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the Senate, and the first Black lesbian to serve in Congress. Her appointment is a testament to the growing diversity of the United States and the progress that has been made in recent years in the fight for LGBTQ rights.